There were storms long before car engines, says Danny Healy-Rae

Kerry TD said farmers ‘aren’t allowed touch’ rivers for fear of losing EU payments

Danny Healy Rae said EU farm payments were preventing farmers from “clearing rivers” and preventing flooding. He said farmers “aren’t allowed touch” the rivers for fear of losing their entitlements.  File photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Danny Healy Rae said EU farm payments were preventing farmers from “clearing rivers” and preventing flooding. He said farmers “aren’t allowed touch” the rivers for fear of losing their entitlements. File photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

 

Kerry TD Danny Healy-Rae has repeated his opposition to the concept of climate change.

Commenting during an Oireachtas committee debate on a proposed €140 million flood-relief scheme for Cork city, Mr Healy-Rae said “storms all happened long before there was a combustible (sic) engine”.

Mr Healy-Rae told the Oireachtas Committee on Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht however that opponents and supporters of the Cork flood relief scheme should “get round the table” before funding for the scheme was lost.

Mr Healy-Rae said EU farm payments were preventing farmers from “clearing rivers” and preventing flooding. He said farmers “aren’t allowed touch” the rivers for fear of losing their entitlements.

“Our rivers need to be cleared out. The river Shannon hasn’t been touched since the late 1800s” .

He welcomed the appointment of Kevin “Boxer” Moran as Minister with responsibility for the Office of Public Works, noting Mr Moran had promised to use machinery to tackle the problem of Shannon flooding.

Earlier the committee was told by architect John Hegarty of Fourem architects that the OPW relief scheme for Cork city would result in incalculable damage to the city’s historic fabric and cultural heritage.

Mr Hegarty cited the World Bank which he said had determined that cities which conserved their historic core thrived in terms of uniqueness, tourism and self esteem.

But he said the Office of Public Works flood relief scheme would involve the building of new walls along the quays with massive disruption to small family businesses, many of whom would not survive. He said walls of up to four feet in places would be of fixed heights and not be flexible to meet the needs of a changing climate. He advocated a tidal barrier instead, which he said would also allow for the development of the city’s docklands.

The OPW scheme was “old fashioned thinking” that the river could be contained at a height in excess of the floors of local properties and would result in land being saturated with eruptions of water in the older and more low-lying areas.

On the other hand he said the tidal barrier would defend vital roads, railways, the historic core of the city and allow the development of the docklands, while being more economical.

He said authorities in the Netherlands and across the world had come to the conclusion that “long miles of walls were not the way to carry out flood relief”.

However a commissioner with the Office of Public Works John Sydenham defended the 19 km barrier from the ESB’s Inniscarra Dam in Co Cork to Cork City. He said the last two major flood events in Cork city had cost €90 million and €40 million respectively.

The new flood relief scheme would involve replacing heritage materials and would protect 2,100 properties he said.

He said the tidal barrier concept had been tested against the OPW scheme and the OPW scheme was the preferred choice.

Mr Sydenham also said the OPW scheme had the support of the vast majority of elected representatives and the Cork Business Association and, he believed, the majority of residents.

Committee chairman Peadar Tóibín TD said: “Given the long history of flooding in Cork city and the surrounding area, it is important that an integrated flood protection plan and flood defences are put in place”.