Dáil debate on floods descends into accusations of 'EU bullshit' and political grandstanding
TÁNAISTE Joan Burton has been forced to defend the Government’s response to the flooding crisis amid claims that there are not enough workers on the ground.
The Dáil has been told that “people are holding their breath” ahead of the next wave of floods that are expected to hit towns close to the River Shannon over the weekend.
But Ms Burton accused the opposition of “a little bit of political grandstanding on the misery of people who are without a doubt petrified about what might happen over the next four or five days”.
Roscommon-South Leitrim TD Michael Fitzmaurice blamed EU bureaucracy and “bullshit” for not allowing communities put their own flood defences in place.
“Holland is below sea level and they are not drowned out of it at the moment. The so-called experts came in and told us how to live our lives,” he said.
He accused Ms Burton on “patronising” the people of Athlone by suggesting that tourism and wildlife had to be considered alongside agriculture.
“Sadly at the moment there are too many bodies interfering. The people of the land know how to move water and that’s the reality.
“The people around Athlone would rather if there was less water in the area. Don’t go patronising them by saying they’d rather be in tourism,” Mr Fitzmaurice said.
He added: “Their lives are being taken away because there houses, their land, their sheds are flooded.”
And Mr Fitzmaurice warned that the west of Ireland “will become a theme park” if people aren’t able to work.
He also claimed that there were not enough local authority staff working to deal with the crisis, saying that he had to go around putting up signs on roads warning motorist of dangers himself.
Sinn Féin’s Sandra McLellan asked the Tánaiste to give a commitment to set up a State funded insurance scheme for families and business people who can’t get flood insurance.
“People’s livelihoods are literally being washed away and this is not the first time for many people,” she said.
“We know that this bad weather is set to continue and even get worse so will you please send a message to people that their Government will be there with practical and financial assistance.”
In response Ms Burton said an emergency plan was in full swing and every effort was being made “to mitigate what it is a very traumatic event in the run up to Christmas”.
“In relation to business who are unable to get insurance that a €5m fund will be established to assist businesses who are at a loss.
“It is difficult for traders who had been looking forward, in places like Bandon, to the best Christmas they could have expected since 2007,” Ms Burton said during Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil.
The Labour Party leader added that an insurance scheme is being looked at but that a situation can’t be allowed to develop where private insurance companies are allowed “to walk away”.
She said €430m had been set aside for flood relief schemes in the next six years which is more than has been spent in the last 20 years.
Ms Burton said the local authorities were “devoting very significant staff resources to help people”.
“The people who have been out working night and day along with the local communities we take our hats off. We are now, as a country, have 20 year weather events every five years,” she said.