Terms of reference for Shannon body next week, Dáil told
Kenny says he will not oppose Opposition proposals for single authority for river basin
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: “Rarely did we get the attention of our national broadcaster and national media generally, yet we had severe flooding that impacted across all of Monaghan and in Cavan.” Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times
Terms of reference for the body to oversee the river Shannon will be published next week, the Taoiseach has said. Introducing the Shannon River Basin Management Co-ordination Group, Enda Kenny told the Dáil he would not oppose Opposition Bills proposing a single authority for the Shannon.
“But I consider we can have a much more effective management action strategy in the meantime,” he said, “dealing with the agencies who will know their responsibility and who is supposed to carry out particular works.”
Earlier, Mr Kenny said a “multifaceted’’ response was required to deal with flooding. This includes flood plains and works that could be carried out under the flexibility of the habitats and water directives.
He said “an effective working strategy” was required to deal with the Shannon basin from estuary to source.
“One of the decisions made by the Government was to invest in detailed capacity for far greater information about long- range weather forecasting, so that the authorities and people in communities would be well aware as far as in advance as possible of what might happen,” the Taoiseach said.
Mr Kenny was replying to Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, who said many people were angry about the lack of preparation for the storm. He said the Dáil should be debating legislation for a single agency for the Shannon region.
Mr Martin said there had been no discussion until Tuesday regarding insurance cover for homes at risk from flooding. He wanted to know why there had been a lack of preparation in terms of the response to the damage.
The Fianna Fáil leader said the floods and storms had devastated many communities, causing immense damage to homes, businesses and vital infrastructure, particularly roads. He claimed the underspend on flood defences in the past two years was €34 million.
“Why has the national framework for emergency response not been updated?’’ he asked. “Why has there been no proactive work on the insurance issue until now?”
Mr Kenny said the rains in December were the heaviest for 52 years in many places. He had called together the chief executives of the statutory authorities responsible for the Shannon basin. “They had never been called together previously,” the Taoiseach added. “If one reads the official report of the debate held in this House on 30th June, 1948, one will find the same complaints and issues raised about flooding, and the Shannon in particular, at that time.”
Mr Kenny said he understood the frustration of so many people, but all of the agencies were working flat out to bring about solutions. “The period ahead is a very important time for rectifying some of these problems in preparation for what might happen again next winter.”
Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said he had visited homes and businesses in various parts of the State that had been badly affected by the floods. The problem of organising a co-ordinated response to flooding in the Shannon region was exacerbated by the myriad bodies and agencies that had statutory authority for the river.
“The fact that no single agency exists to manage the river, or to co-ordinate the response to flooding in the Shannon region, is an indictment of successive governments,” Mr Adams said.
Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin referred to the flooding in his Cavan-Monaghan constituency, which claimed the life of Ivan Vaughan, a musician and member of one of Ireland’s top bands, The Plattermen.
“Rarely did we get the attention of our national broadcaster and national media generally,” Mr Ó Caoláin said, “yet we had severe flooding that impacted across all of Monaghan and in Cavan. ’’