Ministers to bring forward plans to help flood-hit communities

Worst hit areas including Athlone still experiencing floodwater at record 2009 levels

 

The Government is to undertake a major reassessment of road damage in areas seriously affected by recent flooding as part of a package of measures to deal with the weather crisis.

Among proposals under consideration is a grant system to allow homeowners to install their own flood protection measures, such as walls or “flood gates”.

Ministers also believe there may be a case for helping a small number of people in exceptional cases to relocate to new homes if the threat of serious flooding in the future cannot b e alleviated.

A number of Ministers are to bring proposals to Cabinet on Tuesday to help affected communities. Local authorities have been asked to submit preliminary estimates of the cost of damage to the Department of the Environment in advance of the meeting. However, a complete picture will not be available until floodwaters have receded.

Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe will confirm his department is to carry out an assessment of the infrastructure network once the flooding has ended to assess what repairs and extra money are required.

Political football

Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly, along with Simon Harris, the Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works (OPW), are expected to seek Cabinet approval for the establishment of a flood forecasting system. This would require hiring additional staff for Met Éireann and the OPW.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Mr Kelly, Mr Harris and other Ministers will meet representatives of the OPW, the National Parks and Wildlife Service, Inland Fisheries, Waterways Ireland and local authorities before the Cabinet meeting.

The meeting is expected to concentrate on long-term strategies to protect 300 areas across the State - 66 of which are on the Shannon - which have been identified by the OPW as vulnerable to flooding.

More rain fell in December than would normally fall during a whole winter, breaking records at many weather stations across the country, Met Éireann has said.

Outlook

However, it is holding out prospects for an improvement. Meteorologist Gerald Flaming said the country was now starting to experience more normal weather patterns. The outlook is for continuing unsettled weather, but without rainfall on the the scale of recent weeks.

Flooding continues in many river catchments across the country, with multiple road closures and considerable disruption to transport. Iarnród Éireann said bus transfers were in operation between Limerick, Ennis and Galway; Longford and Carrick-on-Shannon; and Gorey/Rosslare Europort.

Record water levels are continuing to be experienced in the mid-Shannon catchment area. Levels in Athlone breached 2009 flood records at the weekend and Lough Derg and areas downstream are at 2009 levels.