Cabinet to discuss emergency funding for flood-hit areas

Enda Kenny sympathises with ‘terrible loss’ but defends progress on defence systems

Taoiseach Enda Kenny during an anouncment of a jobs launch  at the Conrad Hotel, Dublin. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Taoiseach Enda Kenny during an anouncment of a jobs launch at the Conrad Hotel, Dublin. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

 

The Cabinet will on Tuesday discuss providing emergency funding to homes and businesses damaged by Storm Desmond, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said.

Mr Kenny said damage caused across the country over the weekend is a “terrible loss, three weeks before Christmas” and said Ministers will discuss how best to provide some short-term funding.

However, the Taoiseach defended the progress made to date on flood defence and relief systems, adding an additional €1 billion, announced in the Government’s recent capital development plan, will be spent over the coming years.

“Clearly a month’s rain in two days is something we are not used to in Ireland and November being a very wet month, with ground being saturated to a great extent, has exacerbated this problem,” Mr Kenny said at a jobs launch in Dublin on Monday morning.

“From an Office of Public Works point of view, under the European directive, we are required to set out the areas where action has to be taken remedially to deal with flooding, and there are 300 such locations.

“Clearly these can be quite complex, given the topography, the geography and the hydrological surveys that are necessary to be carried out. That doesn’t deal with the immediate problem.”

Mr Kenny said he met on Monday morning with Simon Harris, the Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works (OPW), and those responsible for collating reports from councils across the country.

“That has been done and supplied by every local authority. We’ll collate all those reports and the Cabinet will discuss in the morning the question of the possibility of emergency funding to be made available here.

“I’d like to think that some of the independent agencies will be able to work with Government in examining the possibility of how we might deal in a humanitarian sense and a business sense with what is a terrible loss to people three weeks before Christmas.”

Empathise

Mr Kenny said he wanted to empathise with “the householders and business people who have had flooding occur in their premises, from Castlefin down to Bandon over the last weekend”.

He also sympathised with a young person who was hospitalised after entering the water around Hook Head.

“Speaking to people both in Bandon and in Crossmolina, in the latter case this has been the worst flooding in 52 years and clearly we have to decide what is the best course of action open to Government and we will discuss that tomorrow morning.”

Mr Kenny said the Government has a “big job” in the decade ahead to improve flood defences but added €1 billion in funding had already been announced in the capital plan.

“I just want you know that the system that is in operation has been working for quite some time. Red alerts were signalled and the personnel were put in contact with each other from the Civil Defence Forces to the Army to the Gardaí, the local authorities, the communities and so on.

“Clearly, when you look at some of the areas where remedial action was to be carried out like Clonmel, Fermoy, Mallon and Ennis, these things have been very successful.

“I contrast the expenditure that has been made in Cumbria, in Carlisle where almost €40 million was spent and it didn’t prove up to scratch when the floods actually came.”

‘I’ve never seen anything like it’

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan commented on the flooding from Brussels.

“First of all it was an awful lot of rain. And it was more rain than wind, and there was unprecedented rainfall all along the west coast from Friday evening into Sunday. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“Now there’s an assessment of damages going on at present, and the local authorities and OPW are drawing a report together on the impact of the flooding. We know it has been very bad in certain localities, in certain neighbourhoods. But we want an overview. That report will go to Government tomorrow and then Government will be in a position to assess overall action and overall cost.”