Saturday 21 April 2018

European Commission hits out at Irish politicians' claims EU rules are to blame for flood crisis

Paudie Coffey. Photo: Damien Eagers
Paudie Coffey. Photo: Damien Eagers
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

THE European Commission has today hit out at claims that EU environmental rules are to blame for Ireland’s flood crisis.

In an unusual move, the Commission released a statement in which it insists it is not standing in the way of the authorities if they wish to dredge rivers.

A number of TDs, including government ministers, have called for rivers such as the Shannon and Suir to be dredged in order to prevent further flooding.

On Monday, Planning and Housing Minister Paudie Coffey slammed what he described as “excessive red and tape and bureaucracy” which he says is preventing landowners from protecting their homes.

Opposition TDs in particular have blamed EU rules as being part of the problem.

In a statement today, a spokeswoman for the Commission rejected the criticism.

“Any suggestion that EU environmental rules are somehow to blame for the recent severe flooding in Ireland is completely without foundation,” the spokeswoman said.

"EU law does not ban dredging. The Water Framework Directive (WFD) and the Floods Directive do not include detailed rules on how Member States manage their water courses. That is decided by the Member States themselves,” she added.

The statement emphasised that the Irish Government does not need to notify the European Commission about plans to dredge rivers as there is no such obligation in EU legislation.

“Dredging is not always the solution for flooding. It may help to sort out a local problem but it may also transport the problem downstream, sometimes from rural to urban areas where the damage on properties and economic activities can be much higher. Therefore the basin-wide approach included in EU policies is essential to find effective and long-term solutions,” the Commission added.

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