Wednesday 21 February 2018

Urgent flood response? More of a case of deja vu

Taoiseach Enda Kenny visiting Justin Flannery's beef farm in Peterswell, East Galway Photo: Hany Marzouk
Taoiseach Enda Kenny visiting Justin Flannery's beef farm in Peterswell, East Galway Photo: Hany Marzouk
Allison Bray

Allison Bray

"Dail Eireann is of the opinion that ameliorative measures of a permanent nature for the relief of farmers in the flooded area of the Shannon Valley would be initiated immediately by the Government."

One would be forgiven for thinking that the above statement was made last week after the Cabinet announced its controversial plans to establish a River Shannon taskforce to coordinate the Government's response to the ongoing flood crisis in the region.

But, in fact, it was a motion made in the Dail almost 60 years ago by the late Roscommon TD and leader of the National Progressive Democrats John (Jack) McQuillan in November 1958.

In an ensuing debate on the annual flood crisis along the Shannon, despite the passage of the Arterial Drainage Act meant to alleviate flooding by major rivers in 1945, the late west Cork farmer-turned-independent-TD Florence Wycherley agreed, lamenting the "great difficulties" suffered by fellow farmers trying to "make an honest living" despite the "serious flooding which occurs annually in the Shannon River".

"Farmers tell me that they would almost set the dogs after engineers in future when they see them traverse the banks of a river, they are so sick of the system which has been going on - so many surveys being made, so many engineers coming with maps, but very little work being done," McQuillan said.

"Instead of spending too much money on surveys and machinery, men should be put to work to get the job done."

Mr McQuillan then took issue with claims by Gerald Bartley, the then-Parliamentary Secretary for former Finance Minister James Ryan, that "this is a matter of urgency".

"Were it not for the fact that I held that motion on the order paper from March 1957, the people in the Shannon Valley might be waiting for another five or 10 years before the ameliorative measures announced tonight would be put into operation," he said.

"Whenever there is a difficult matter to be faced, a government will evade, shelve or sidetrack their responsibility unless there is somebody there to force them along to tackle the difficult problem."

Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose, n'est- ce pa?

Sunday Independent

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