Almost €1.2m in flood compensation paid to businesses
More than €1m in emergency funding has been paid out to small businesses and communities left in dire straits after the flooding crisis, the Sunday Independent has learned.
Yesterday, hundreds of flood victims gathered at a national protest rally in Athlone.
Almost 350 business owners, community groups and sporting bodies have applied for financial support under the Irish Red Cross scheme since storms Desmond, Frank and Gertrude wreaked havoc on homes, land and rivers nationwide.
Of these, 211 have received payment - with 203 collecting €5,000 lump sums to reinstate their premises.
To date a total of €1,162,060 has been paid out.
Last December, Taoiseach Enda Kenny announced that €5m would be made available for small businesses that have suffered flood damage and were unable to get insurance.
Remaining applications have been denied compensation, require further information or are pending review under new criteria.
Earlier this month, the Government announced that emergency flooding would be extended to businesses in non rateable areas.
Despite the pay-outs, flood victims from Longford, Westmeath, Leitrim, Roscommon and further afield, are furious over the Government's failure to commit to long-term flood defences.
Jer Bergin, national chairman of the IFA said: "We need action to be taken now, and we need a change of direction in terms of maintenance of the River Shannon, it has to become part of public works for the future".
"It's not acceptable anymore that no work is being done to keep our rivers clear. There has to be a programme of works undertaken to protect rural dwellers and farmers".
Campaigners are urging the Government to establish a proper maintenance programme of the River Shannon and the implementation of a single authority to look after the rivers.
Victims are also considering bypassing the Government and going directly to the European Court to raise their flooding concerns.
"The livelihoods of people and their properties has to come first. We need to see the people who are directly affected as part of the decision-making process, they have to play a role," said Mr Bergin.
The IFA are calling for the appointment of a full cabinet minister with responsibility for rural affairs.
The organisation also wants agriculture and fisheries to come under the one ministership.
"We're seeing an uneven recovery after the recession and we're seeing rural areas being left behind with agriculture under serious pressure," said Mr Bergin.
Michael Fitzmaurice, Independent TD for Roscommon, South Leitrim, who attended yesterday's march said "the people on the ground want action, not lip service".
"There was a good turn out at the protest and people said what needed to be said but the next Government can rest assured that further protest will be coming down the track. The people of these areas have been waiting too long for action and they're not going to back down," he said.