'EU red tape stops people from protecting properties'
European Union "bureaucracy and the bullshit" is to blame for people not being able to protect their property from floods, the Dáil has heard.
With families forced out of their homes along the River Shannon, TD Michael Fitzmaurice said EU laws were stopping people from taking action.
"In rural parts of Ireland and in towns such as Athlone, Ballinasloe and Athleague, throughout most of Galway and in County Clare down to the mouth of the Shannon, people are holding their breath because they do not know what will happen in the next few days," he said.
During a tense debate with Tánaiste Joan Burton, the Roscommon-South Leitrim TD said people in rural Ireland understood how to manage the landscape but "we are blocked from that because of all the bureaucracy".
"When somebody tried to do something on their land or in a river in these parts of the country, five different bodies try to put obstacles before them," he said.
He cited a variety of EU laws which seek to protect the environment and wildlife, adding: "If we do not decide to address the problem, we will be in trouble as a country. If we do not turn around and stand up to what is happening, the west of Ireland will become a theme park with rules and regulations coming in from Europe."
He said the Government should allow people dredge rivers in a bid to stop their land and homes being flooded.
However, Ms Burton claimed that he was engaging in "a little bit of political grandstanding on the misery of people who are undoubtedly petrified of what may happen over the next four or five days".
She said Mr Fitzmaurice "may be right in some cases" about dredging but she "seriously" doubted he was right in all cases.
"People who are involved in tourism and fishing might not support the view that the rivers of Ireland should simply be gouged out," she said.
Mr Fitzmaurice hit back, saying the "people of the land know how to move water".
"The people around Athlone would prefer if there was less water in the area. They are able to farm their land and would be supported in doing so, but the Tánaiste should not patronise them by saying they would much rather be at tourism or whatever.
"They are well capable of running their lives, but their lives are being washed away because their houses, farms and sheds are flooded."
Sinn Féin's Sandra McLellan asked the Tánaiste to give a commitment to set up a State-funded insurance scheme for families and business people who can't get flood insurance.
"People's livelihoods are literally being washed away and this is not the first time for many people," she said.
In response, Ms Burton said an emergency plan was in full swing and every effort was being made "to mitigate what is a very traumatic event in the run-up to Christmas".
"In relation to businesses who are unable to get insurance, a €5m fund will be established to assist businesses who are at a loss.
"It is difficult for traders who had been looking forward, in places like Bandon, to the best Christmas they could have expected since 2007," Ms Burton said.
The Labour Party leader added that an insurance scheme was being looked at, but private insurance companies cannot be allowed "to walk away".