Tuesday 27 September 2016

Sandbags, sympathy no match for floods

Published 14/12/2015 | 02:30

Alan Kelly
Alan Kelly

Environment Minister Alan Kelly will bring a memo to Cabinet tomorrow which will seek to address the 'infrastructure issues' causing devastating flooding in many communities along the River Shannon.

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Which begs the question: what has the Coalition been doing for the past five years to prevent and minimise risks to life, property and businesses from a river that has been flooding at regular intervals for centuries?

It can hardly be the case that such devastation was unforeseen - the last major flooding along the Shannon was in 2009. And we know only too well the infrastructure resources and other issues involved as the management of the Shannon, the longest river in Ireland, has been a contentious issue for as long as it has been flowing and bursting its banks.

Historical flood analysis alone warrants an urgent strategic response, let alone preparing for medium and long-term future risks associated with climate change which will increase the frequency, pattern and severity of flooding.

Ireland also has obligations under the EU Floods Directive, transposed into law five years ago, to prepare and implement flood risk management plans. However, flood management measures are not expected to be announced until next year when a national study of flood-prone areas is completed.

Since the foundation of the State, successive governments have deployed emergency measures in the public interest to deal with serious threats to our economy and security.

Yet there appears to be a lack of strategic urgency surrounding our national flood hazards and their devastating consequences.

The Government has set aside some €15m to support homes and businesses affected by the latest round of recurring floods. However, this sum pales in comparison to the actual costs, in human and commercial terms, that will result from the floods.

The time of offering sandbags and sympathy is long past. We know the problems. It will fall to the next Government to prioritise, devise and implement sustainable solutions.

Irish Independent

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