Saturday 1 October 2016

Shannon dredging will go ahead, insists Taoiseach

Kevin Doyle and Philip Ryan

Published 08/01/2016 | 02:30

The River Shannon has flooded land in many counties including here in Banagher, Co Offaly. Photo credit: Niall Carson/PA Wire
The River Shannon has flooded land in many counties including here in Banagher, Co Offaly. Photo credit: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Standing firm: Enda Kenny. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said "common sense" needed to be applied in the debate over dredging the River Shannon as he insisted works would be carried out .

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Mr Kenny has rejected claims that European laws have stopped dredging on the river and thereby contributed to the devastating floods of recent weeks.

There have been tensions between the Government EU officials after the Commission released a statement rejecting suggestions it is somewhat to "blame" for the flood crisis.

At Tuesday's Cabinet meeting, it's understood Mr Kenny told ministers they should tell Europe how they plan to address the floods crisis rather than ask permission to breach strict environmental standards.

The Government believes European Commission rules are preventing it from dredging the River Shannon due to protection orders covering wildlife.

"The Taoiseach said we have to do what we have to do with the River Shannon and forget about the European Commission. He was very frank, he said people come before habitat," a Cabinet source said.

Speaking in Amsterdam yesterday, Mr Kenny insisted that the necessary works would be carried out.

"The European Commission issued a formal statement just this week indicating that the directives, both in terms of habitat and water, do not prevent dredging and do not ban dredging. But it's necessary to inform them that works are going to be carried out," the Taoiseach said.

In recent weeks, there has been criticism of EU legislation such as the Water Framework Directive, which prohibits dredging if it disturbs certain habitats.

However, Mr Kenny said priority had to be given to people and property.

"It's quite clear there is a great deal of confusion about the responsibility of the statutory agencies. That's why I called them together last week for the first time.

"That's why we'll call them together in 10 days' time to give them the terms of reference for the management of the entire Shannon basin. But it's not true to say that works cannot be carried out where emergency situations warrant that in the interest of protecting people, their properties and their livelihoods.

"It's case of common sense applying and we intend to follow through on that," he added.

Meanwhile, there was confusion yesterday surrounding the prospect of hardship payments being made to farmers whose land has been destroyed by the floods.

The Government announced as part of its 12-point plan in response to the flood crisis that cash payments would be made to those in need.

But department officials said yesterday that the details of such a scheme would not be formalised until the flood waters recede. A separate scheme to replace damaged fodder is currently being rolled out.

Irish Independent

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