Ministers insist Enda Kenny has interest in flood hit areas

Enda Kenny not ‘doing the Bertie Ahern’ puddle photocall, says Simon Harris

Two Government Ministers have defended Taoiseach Enda Kenny amid Opposition claims he has not shown enough interest in areas seriously affected by recent flooding.

Simon Harris, the Fine Gael Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works, said Mr Kenny had visited some affected areas and would visit more in the coming days.

He said Mr Kenny will not be "doing the Bertie Ahern, standing in a puddle of water saying: 'Look at me taking action'" photocall.

“While understandably the media like to see politicians doing photocalls and getting out and about, the Taoiseach will visit areas - already has visited a number of areas in the west -and will visit a number of areas in the coming days,” Mr Harris said.


“I have been in daily contact with him. I will have visited four towns by the end of today. The Taoiseach isn’t just putting on the wellies and doing the Bertie Ahern, standing in a puddle of water saying ‘look at me taking action’. He is taking action.”

Capital investment

Mr Harris pointed to the €430 million capital investment in flooding protection announced in recent weeks, as well other relief funds.

Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly said he had a long conference call with Mr Kenny on Wednesday morning and that other Government ministers would be visiting affected areas also.

“Obviously this is a top priority and it is being dealt with as the main issue the country is facing at the moment,” Mr Kelly said. “I am sure the Taoiseach has shown his face on the ground already. He has visited areas up around the west and I am sure he will be out and about.

“This is a whole of Government issue, it is a whole of country issue and there are a number of ministers out and about today and will be for the rest of the week.

“This isn’t an issue that is going to be closed off today or tomorrow. This is an issue that we are going to be dealing with as a Government for the next three or four weeks.”

Mr Kelly urged people to be safe on the roads, with driving conditions treacherous in places.

“We really do need people to take care and plan when they are driving,” Mr Kelly said. He also asked organisers of New Year’s events in the coming days to consider safety measures and if, in some cases the events should go ahead.

Dáil recall

Fianna Fáil TD Colm Keaveney has called for the Dáil to be recalled to discuss the flooding, but Mr Kelly rejected this. Barry Cowen, also a Fianna Fáil TD, called on the Taoiseach to hold an emergency Cabinet meeting but Mr Kelly said the Cabinet is meeting next week and the flooding will be top of the agenda.

Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada said the Government had displayed “ineptitude in preparing flood defences” and that “ more hollow promises” from the Coalition were no substitute for action.

“The risk of flooding is increasing and will continue to increase. People across this island need to know that our political leaders have a plan to prevent this happening in the future,” she said.

Mr Harris said all agencies with some involvement with the river Shannon - such as the ESB, Bord na Móna, Waterways Ireland and local authorities - will meet next week in an attempt to come up with interim measures to prevent and alleviate flooding.

Out of a total of 300 areas in a national plan to tackle flooding, 66 are along the Shannon, Mr Harris said, adding that next week’s meeting will examine possible interim measures.

“People have been talking about solving problems with flooding on the Shannon since De Valera was in power,” he said. “We will have 66 plans for the Shannon by next summer. Our priority here is what we can do in the short term.”