Friday 28 October 2016

Wait for a response to floods has been too long

Published 06/01/2016 | 02:30

Taoiseach Enda Kenny outside the Dunning household before he visited following flooding in Carrickobrien, Ireland. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Taoiseach Enda Kenny outside the Dunning household before he visited following flooding in Carrickobrien, Ireland. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

It hasn't been declared but, with so much of the countryside inundated, we are rapidly facing a national emergency on flooding.

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Today, the Cabinet is finally meeting over the crisis. More than 600 homes have been flooded and prevention operations are taking place in over 300 locations. More rain fell this December than normally falls in an entire winter.

Politicians cannot be blamed for the weather but they will be judged by their response to this escalating crisis.

What is so difficult for those whose lives are being destroyed is that promises made in the aftermath of the flooding of 2009 were washed away. They now find themselves stricken once again, and this time there is no insurance.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny's advice last week for people to move to higher ground was maladroit.

His ambivalence towards the UN COP21 summit on climate change in Paris, and his special pleading on his return, suggest a flippant regard for the scale of the challenges.

Local interests can no longer take priority over national ones. Good governance is defined by getting things done.

A central agency must be set in place to monitor water levels and flood management. The confusion created by too many competing agencies has led to dysfunction and inertia. Management of the Shannon has to be a priority. But all of the issues have to be addressed on a countrywide basis. Planning, irresponsible building on flood plains, poor drainage, failure to dredge rivers, have all been cited as contributory factors.

The State must also put a fund in place to help those in areas where insurance is not available.

The Coalition has not handled this crisis with either the resolve or sensitivity required. The stamp of authority has been missing. Leadership is defined by results, as opposed to good intentions. It is not an exaggeration to suggest that Government hopes of a return to power could ebb or flow depending on their response to these challenges.

IFA election is best way to rebuild confidence 

The agreement by the IFA's entire executive board to put all positions to a vote by grassroots' members is the first piece of good news to have come from the organisation since the pay furore first erupted. A clearing of the air is eminently sensible and a vote affords each candidate the opportunity to set out their vision.

The IFA is entirely dependent on a spirit of volunteerism.

But there has been a breach of trust at the highest level of the organisation and the only way to rebuild confidence is to lay all the cards on the table and make a clean start.

The organisation, with its 80,000 loyal members, was rocked to its foundations when the pay controversy came to a head, resulting in former IFA general secretary Pat Smith, and former president Eddie Downey, stepping down.

There have been intensifying calls for change, so now there is a chance for all to move forward with the full democratic endorsement of all those who share an interest in an organisation which has played such a fundamental role in Irish farming.

This is a victory for transparency and accountability.

Irish Independent

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