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Editorial: It will cost us but we need proper flood defences

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Damage from the recent storms. Picture: O'Callaghan TV

Damage from the recent storms. Picture: O'Callaghan TV

Damage from the recent storms. Picture: O'Callaghan TV

It cannot be welcome news that so many areas of cities, towns and villages, 300 in all, have been identified as at serious risk from flooding in the Draft Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management reports.

Climate change is undoubtedly beginning to make itself felt in the storm surges that have afflicted large areas of the south over recent days and seem destined to cause further pain and suffering to home and business owners in the coming days.

The minister with responsibility for the OPW, Brian Hayes, was quite forceful in an interview with Sean O'Rourke on RTE Radio 1 yesterday: "The idea that we can protect every acre of land in the country is a lie and a pretence and that has to be struck on its head," he declared.

And, of course, he is right such flood defences would be unrealistic and cost billions.

But while this might be a very reasonable position for Mr Hayes to adopt it is not what large swathes of people who have suffered from serious flooding want to hear. The minister might be well be advised to bear in mind the fate of the late Michael O'Leary, whose political career was all but ruined when he became known as the 'Minister for Snow'.

As the Taoiseach and other ministers largely stand back from the crisis, Mr Hayes is now 'Minister for Floods' and it is important that he responds appropriately to the humanitarian crisis that has occurred.

Nobody doubts his goodwill in this area and there are budgetary constraints to be borne in mind. It will also be some time before the EU will be prepared to contribute towards the cost of the clean-up.

While €15 million has already been set aside to alleviate suffering, this not be nearly enough, given the scale of the damage. It is also worrying that "a number of government departments" will become involved rather than one taking charge of the situation.

After the initial clean-up the first priority of the Government should be to look at the issue of proper flood defences where they are needed, and to equip local authorities with modern technology to deal speedily and effectively with flooding emergencies as they arise.

Irish Independent