Wednesday 7 December 2016

Farmers can't access aid grant of €5,000

Properties outside ‘risk areas’ not covered

Kevin Doyle, Paul Melia and John Downing

Published 16/12/2015 | 02:30

A farmhouse and buildings surrounded by floodwaters in Montpelier, Co. Limerick, earlier this week. Photo: Tisc
A farmhouse and buildings surrounded by floodwaters in Montpelier, Co. Limerick, earlier this week. Photo: Tisc

Farmers will not be eligible for any support from the millions of euro set aside to help businesses in the wake of Storm Desmond.

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Local authorities have put the early estimates of the cost of the damage to roads, sewers and other infrastructure at €6.2m, but this does not include the impact on individual families and businesses.

More than 100 people have so far inquired about the €5,000 grant scheme set up through the Irish Red Cross to help businesses affected by the floods. Fifteen have formally applied - but Taoiseach Enda Kenny has indicated the scheme will not be extended to farmers who have seen their livelihoods washed away by the floods.

Mr Kenny said most of the flooded farmland was outside the "flood risk areas" and he did not see them being able to benefit from the scheme.

It comes as the Office of Public Works (OPW) reported that water levels on the River Shannon had stopped rising for the first time in two weeks.

However, Jim Casey, the OPW's Head of Hydrology and Coastal Section, said a "severe" flood warning remained in place and it could be weeks before levels recede to the point where properties will be considered no longer under threat.

"We can't be specific about how long it will take for water levels to recede," he said, adding the it could be influenced by further rainfall.

Forecaster Joan Blackburn said the country is entering a "very mild, wet spell".

"Rainfall is still above average, considerably so in the south and west," she said.

Environment Minister Alan Kelly has now set aside €8m to help local authorities carry out repairs but said information is still coming in as to the full extent of the damage.

"The main issues are roads, sewers, infrastructure around the channelling of water, and amenities. Roads is by far and away the largest issue, particularly in the mid-west," he said.

"They [local authorities] asked for €6.2m and we allocated €8m which covers overtime, maintenance, preventative measures, plant hire, the list is endless. Everything the local authorities have asked for has been covered," the minister said.

In the Dáil, Mr Kenny also gave his strongest signal so far that he will not introduce State-backed flood insurance for stricken householders and business left without insurance.

Insurance

He said a scheme in Britain was restrictive and he also signalled that such State schemes would involve a levy for others buying house insurance. "I want to say there will be no further insurance levies," Mr Kenny said.

The Taoiseach also told Sinn Féin's Gerry Adams it was easy to talk of 17 different authorities responsible administration of the Shannon River and the need for just one authority.

Mr Kenny said in practice this meant the risk of long litigation between various public agencies, some of which were older than the State itself.

He added that he was working on 300 flood-protection projects, 66 of which were on the Shannon, and some €10bn would be invested in the coming decade.

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney said his Department would take a "sensitive approach" to farm inspections.

As inspections are a necessary requirement to facilitate the issuing of payments, it is not possible to stop all inspections but where significant flooding is evident on the farm, inspections will be deferred. "I have asked Teagasc to provide dedicated on-farm advice to farmers in flooded areas," he said.

Irish Independent

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