President urges politicians not to play political ‘football’ with floods

Michael D Higgins calls for co-operation between agencies and talks of climate change

President Higgins meets local man Ephrain Cloney during a visit to flood-damaged areas of Enniscorthy, Co Wexford. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

President Higgins meets local man Ephrain Cloney during a visit to flood-damaged areas of Enniscorthy, Co Wexford. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

 

President Michael D Higgins has urged politicians not to play political “football” with the floods, calling for greater co-operation between agencies to deal with the crisis.

On a visit to the village of Labane near Gort in south Co Galway, the President also linked the floods to climate change.

“There are those that would like to deny climate change. So let’s grow up and be responsible, and let’s think long [term].

“The people here, they really don’t want the unfortunate experience they have had since the middle of December to be used as some kind of football.

“As President I am no longer involved in active politics. I think when I look back it is possible to take good things we did together as communities in relation to decision-making about farming, about planning, about housing. But it isn’t a time really for recrimination; it’s a time for action.”

Local residents

“I have been thinking about it . . . in relation to where we have to go now. If there is a lesson I think in it, it is that we must have inter-agency co-operation. We need real co-operation between the agencies.

“I think that anyone who is being realistic about it has to say, there has to be give and take between the different stakeholders.

“There are different issues to be balanced, and you can’t solve a problem like this by dealing with one dimension to it.

“My hope is that this will all happen. The consultations for example – which are often very long – can be ones in which people will approach them with generosity. I’ll be staying with this. I have discussed it with the Minister Simon Harris this morning.”

He had a scheduled meeting with the Taoiseach on January 14th, “and I’ll be discussing all these issues”.

After visiting the village of Labane, which straddles the Galway to Limerick N18 road which remained closed on Monday, the President visited Enniscorthy in Co Wexford.

Before his departure he praised the massive effort from local residents who were keeping their neighbours’ homes safe.

“It’s been a pleasure to be here in Labane, where I know so many people...this is rural Ireland at its best.

“Sometimes I think what’s produced from rural Ireland doesn’t get a great deal of attention, but the lives of the people are very important.”