Monday 26 September 2016

Flood victims deserve more from our leaders

Published 06/01/2016 | 02:30

Taoiseach Enda Kenny onboard a tractor trailer as he toured the area of Carrick-On-Shannon. Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Taoiseach Enda Kenny onboard a tractor trailer as he toured the area of Carrick-On-Shannon. Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Politicians - if they get to stick around long enough - know there are always risks with any programme of action; but they are nothing like the costs that accrue from comfortable inaction. As the longest-serving TD in the Dáil, Taoiseach Enda Kenny knows that more is expected from a leader than a talent for getting into - and holding onto - office.

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One month into what has become a national emergency since the flood waters first rose before Christmas, there were urgent calls for a single Shannon authority to be set up. This is because dealing with the competing needs of Waterways Ireland, the OPW, the ESB, Bord na Móna, Inland Fisheries Ireland, local authorities, and the Office of Public Works, is simply too cumbersome.

But yesterday, Mr Kenny baulked at this. A single authority was not an option: It would take time, it would require legislative change, it would have to go to the EU, Government sources claimed.

It's been said that a Government that wants to do something will find a way; one that doesn't, will find an excuse. And so Simon Harris has proposed that yet another taskforce will be charged with implementing flood protection plans. There's also a pledge of a further €10m, and Mr Kenny will meet with the insurance industry.

Given the scale of the devastation, these responses are shameful. Throwing paltry money - that will be washed away by the next downpour - at the problem is a travesty. What people desperately needed to hear was what would be done to stop the floods. National planning and infrastructure strategies need to be reviewed and engineering programmes costing billions may have to be put in place. A "simply looking into it" approach won't cut it.

The people of the affected areas whose homes and businesses have been wiped out deserve more.

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney added further insult to the injury be revealing that two plans would be published - next summer - to deal with flooding in the River Shannon catchment area.

Two hundred years ago, Benjamin Franklin noted: "In rivers and bad governments, the lightest things swim at the top." The waters of Parteen Weir may move at 470 cubic metres per second, but it has taken the Government four weeks to produce a comparative drop in the ocean.

Two-tier Junior Cert system not acceptable

It's back to school today and tomorrow for pupils and teachers alike, as the Christmas holidays draw to a close.

This will be the year when the Junior Cert is modernised - for some students, anyway.

The reform of the Junior Cycle is proceeding in one-in-three schools, with new approaches to teaching and learning to equip students with modern-day skills.

The first of the new-style assessments in English for current second years is due to take place in May. Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI) members are trained up in the new assessment methods, but members of the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland (ASTI) are still resisting the changes.

The two-tier system is not acceptable, as it is vital our pupils benefit from the changes envisaged in the broader assessment model to provide a more rounded picture of a student's abilities in the exams system.

Irish Independent

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