Recent storms highlight flood of State inaction
Published 12/12/2015 | 02:30
Already the small local acts of care and kindness since the floods hit the countryside have outstripped the mighty intentions of State and government.
With so much land west of the Shannon and the midlands water-logged, nationally, we are seeing the harsh consequences of serial failures. The passage of time from as far back as Hurricane Charlie in the 1980s has merely served to strengthen the rural-urban divide. After the chaos left in the wake of "Charlie", in Dublin at least, immediate action was taken to strengthen the Dodder and Dargle river banks. Similarly, Fermoy and Clonmel - once flood blackspots - have been protected since defences were put in place.
The devastation farming families and businesses are feeling around the country follows years of neglect by various governments that avoided introducing comprehensive winter action plans.
Questions such as why the Shannon is not regularly dredged, or why so many different players are involved, need to be addressed. The destructive hand of climate change has also been key. The inability to come up with solutions in Paris at the COP21 conference underline how far we are from consensus internationally. Only one in four people canvassed in the EU believes they have personal responsibility for tackling it. But it is critical that the 150 heads of state gathered have more to offer the world than just hot air.
As to our own dismal responses to date, one can not argue with the view of UCC geographer Dr Kieran Hickey: "The system for dealing with floods in this country is overly complex. There are too many competing agencies - often with different goals and strategies. And it is run by politicians who are only interested in the next election."
The irresponsible re-routing of watercourses and poor shoring up of river banks has made matters considerably worse. We are reaping a bitter harvest for incoherent long-term planning in an era of unforgiving global warming which makes severe storms more frequent.
A lack of planning and co-ordination between local councils, the OPW and central government is exacting a terrible price. Reputations should not be built on what one is going to do.