Flood bill may exceed €100m - with more rain due

European Commission rejects claims EU policies have contributed to flooding

Conor Pope visits the Strand area beside the river Shannon in Athlone where local residents are just about keeping flood waters at bay using pumps and sandbags. Video: Bryan O'Brien

 

The Government’s bill to cope with Ireland’s flood damage is expected to exceed €100 million, even in advance of another round of heavy rainfall due over the next two days.

Meanwhile, the European Commission has rejected charges that Brussels policies have contributed to the flooding, saying it is up to each European Union state to manage its own rivers.

Nearly €60 million will be needed to fix damaged roads and bridges, but Ministers fear the bill could be significantly more. Local authorities will receive €10 million, in addition to the €8 million already agreed to help with the clean-up.

Local property tax

Householders affected by flooding, however, will have to pay local property tax, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan has insisted, though they could change the valuations of their homes to reduce the tax due.

This includes people who believe their homes are now worthless, meaning they would not be liable for any property tax, said Mr Noonan, who was speaking at the launch of the Government’s latest exchequer figures.

The Department of Agriculture is to put in place a hardship scheme for farmers struggling to cope with fields under water for months, including an offer to pay full price for damaged fodder.

Kenny’s demand

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has demanded to meet insurance companies in Government Buildings next Tuesday to hear explanations on why so many people in flood-risk districts are refused cover.

Facing demands for a single statutory authority to take charge of the Shannon, the Cabinet agreed to set up a co-ordination group. Its terms of reference will be agreed within two weeks.

A study of the river’s risks, the Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management’s report, will be published in summer – but this may require hundreds of engineering works.

Forecasting

The establishment of a long-term flood forecasting system which would involve 15 extra staff between Met Éireann and the Office of Public Works was also agreed.

“[It] will be an invaluable tool in informing government agencies and local services of when and how large a flood might be and to facilitate early action to mitigate any flooding risks,” Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly said.

Defending itself, the European Commission said dredging “is not always the solution for flooding”, saying it may solve local problems by carrying them downstream to other communities.