Sunday 23 October 2016

Higgins pays tribute to those battling flood waters

Adam Cullen and Declan Rooney

Published 05/01/2016 | 02:30

President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina speak with flood victim Elizabeth O’Connor in Enniscorthy, Co Wexford. Damien Eagers
President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina speak with flood victim Elizabeth O’Connor in Enniscorthy, Co Wexford. Damien Eagers

In a small terraced house in Enniscorthy, Co Wexford, a dizzying smell of bleach does little to drown out the stench of stagnant water and damp.

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Standing in her modest kitchen on the Island Road yesterday, 82-year-old Elizabeth O'Connor was moved to tears by the presence of President Michael D Higgins.

Accompanied by countless TDs, ministers and councillors, the President and his wife Sabina crowded into the home Ms O'Connor has lived in for more than 60 years.

Last week it was filled by the flood waters of the River Slaney.

Her son George (53) welcomed President Higgins's visit, but said it was time for action: "I remember when I was three years old when we had a massive flood here. I remember when we had one in the year 2000 and all those in between," he told the Irish Independent.

"On how many occasions does a house and a street have to be turned into a swamp before action is taken? My mother is 82 years old, she is getting too old to be seeing her home being destroyed."

A few doors down President Higgins visited Peter O'Brien, who broke down when describing the damage to his home.

"It is brilliant to see the President. Fair play to him for coming down, but really, what could he say to us," he said. "He said he was sorry, that this couldn't go on, but what does he have the power to change."

Earlier, President Higgins met "the frontline people" and paid tribute to the countless local volunteers and service providers keeping flood water at bay around the country.

Speaking after a visit to the flood-hit village of Labane near Gort in Co Galway, President Higgins called for co-operation between the various State agencies and appealed for an accelerated reaction to the flooding crisis.

He spoke to several people affected by the flooding, including those forced from their homes, local volunteers, Civil Defence and army personnel who have been working in the area.

"I wanted to hear the experience that people have had for themselves and for their families and for their animals," said President Higgins.

"But I wanted to express my appreciation and gratitude to all of the different agencies that have been working together. There has been very great co-operation from the local authority and the army, who have been here since December 9, bringing feed to animals as well as looking after the people, the Civil Defence, the community itself."

President Higgins called on agencies such as councils, the OPW and the National Parks and Wildlife Service to continue to work together and to expedite their efforts.

Irish Independent

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