Ireland continues to face significant flooding risks, conference told

Engineers Ireland event hears failure to implement risk measures would cause huge cost

Ireland continues to face significant challenges from flooding risks even though hundreds of measures have already been identified to protect homes and businesses, a conference has heard.

Internationally renowned experts on flood risk management, renewable energy and climate change are addressing the Engineers Ireland annual conference in Tullamore, Co Offaly on Thursday.

Addressing the event, president of the organisation Dermot Byrne said Ireland had last year witnessed the devastation caused by flooding.

Such flooding was only expected to get worse as our climate changed, Mr Byrne added.


Parts of the State, including Cork and the Shannon basin area have been affected by severe flooding incidents in recent years, with hundreds of homes and businesses threatened.

“Storms such as those experienced in Ireland in recent years, which previously would have been considered ‘one-in-100-year’ events, are now coming more frequently,” Mr Byrne told delegates.

He noted many of those present were directly involved in tackling Ireland’s flooding challenges.


“Many parts of Ireland remain at high-risk of flooding. In other areas that are currently not associated with flooding, the risk will increase. This presents considerable challenges in terms of flood risk management,” he said.

Continuing early and effective engagement with local communities to develop specific measures for each regional area impacted by flooding was “hugely important”.

Mr Byrne said the publication and implementation of the flood risk management plans to date was very welcome.

Other speakers at the event include Mark Adamson, head of flood relief and risk management at the Office of Public Works.

Since 2008, flood risk management plans prepared by the OPW have identified hundreds of measures around the country that will be required for the mitigation of flood risk and the defence of homes and strategic pieces of infrastructure.

The Government has committed to capital spending of €430 million on flood risk management between 2016-2021, which will mean annual expenditure doubling from current levels to €100 million by the year 2021.

Mr Byrne said it was vital the flood prevention measures be implemented in a timely fashion.

“If we fail to invest adequately in these measures, the cost of repairing the damages will be far greater – perhaps up to four times greater, according to the OPW.

“Aside from the clean-up bill, also consider the damage to Ireland’s reputation if our major cities and infrastructure go unprotected. This is not to mention the heartache caused by the flooding of the family home, farm or business.”

Mr Byrne said climate change was “the greatest challenge of our time”.

In an Irish context, flooding, and rising sea levels, represented perhaps our greatest climate challenge, he added.

He welcomed a commitment by Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Denis Naughten, who also addressed the event, to advance actions on climate change mitigation.

Mr Naughten said the the job of “turning the tables on climate change, and of tacking fuel poverty effectively” did not come with “a silver bullet”.

“These are densely integrated agendas, requiring discipline and persistence,” he said.

“On climate change, the science is clear. What is less clear, is the human will to change.”

He asked the engineers present to be “champions of idealism over self-interest”.

“I ask you to bring the clarity of science and the authority of your profession to complex and sometimes emotional debate,” he said.

Erik Kraajj, deputy director of the National River and Sea Defence Programme in the Netherlands also addressed the conference.

Mr Kraajj told The Irish Times there were legal standards and a national programme in place there to deal with flood risk. Some 60 per cent of the country lies below sea level.

“We started a long time ago because of large flooding in 1953 and we changed our policy against flooding. Today we are facing climate change and sea level rises etc and we have a schedule for the next six to 12 years, which is about €1.1 billion a year.”

He said the Netherlands and Ireland were exchanging knowledge on solutions to deal with climate change, for example.

Mr Kraajj said more innovative solutions were needed, as well as more educated engineers, including younger people, who wanted to work in the sector.

A combination of skills was required, including civil engineering, mechanics and urban planning.

“We need people with different skills but one of our main issues is also that we need more engagement and involvement of the public. The awareness is very important.”

“Awareness is sinking now and that’s our main issue. People feel safe because they know the threats of the water...they feel sake behind the dykes and the dams they think flooding will never happen again,” he said.