Saturday 18 November 2017

'Things worked better when we had local councils'

Flooding issues in East Cork

Tim Ryan, Oireachtas Correspondent

The problems faced by people in the aftermath of flooding were highlighted in the Dáil by Sinn Fein Deputy Pat Buckley. In this regard he said the "elephant in the room" is insurance.

"I live at the top of the hill in Midleton," he said. "It is probably one of the highest points in my town. Behind me are the waterworks. Just below me is an estate called Forest Hill. One can understand why it is called Forest Hill; it is built on a hill. A man in that estate could not get insurance because of the flooding in Midleton. The entire town of Midleton would have to flood before that happened. That is one of the issues that has to be addressed."

Speaking during a debate on flooding, he said East Cork was hit badly n 2015. "Our own rugby club, Midleton RFC, had nearly four foot of water inside it," he said. "That club is built adjacent to a housing estate called Lauriston, which was practically destroyed by flooding. Some of the people lost everything. The position is not all bad but there are a couple of points I want to make. On the night that flooding happened I got a telephone call from a friend of mine in Lebanon who could tell me that there was a full lorry load of sand bags in Collins Barracks but as an elected representative I could not get a contact number to get sanction for those bags to be sent to Midleton. These are just some pointers for the Minister."

"When we had the town councils we sanctioned our own money from local funding for flood relief for Midleton and, thanks be to God, after a lot of wrangling and disturbances, that is going ahead," he said.

"When local councils are involved they have the local knowledge and seem to work better. The general public, the local authorities, the Red Cross, the Civil Defence and the gardaí have been amazing. When a disaster happens in an area, people pull together. As elected representatives we have to address all these issues and give them the same support people have got in recent years. When people are in dire circumstances, others come together to help them. We have a duty to do the same."

Lack of respite care for parents of children with disabilities

The unavailability of respite care to parents of children with disabilities right throughout the summer months, was raised in the Dáil by Cork North West Fianna Fáil Deputy Michael Moynihan.

"There was a commitment that there would be one weekend in every quarter for respite, yet these parents ended up with four days in the entire year," he said. 

"There is a crisis in respite care, particularly among parents who are entering their later years and trying to look after children with disabilities. They are at their wit's end. Is the Taoiseach aware of the crisis? What does he intend to do about it?" Deputy Moynihan asked.

In reply, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he was very aware of the shortage of respite care in the country. "It is something that comes up in my constituency all the time," he said. "I imagine it comes up in the Deputy's as well. I am also very aware of the lifeline that respite offers to many families. The fact they get a break from caring for relatives or loved ones is essential to their own mental health and well-being. It is something in respect of which the Minister of State, Finian McGrath, is developing proposals, with a view to their being included in the budget."

The Taoiseach said he anticipated that there will be additional funding for respite next year. "It may not be enough to give everyone the respite they need or deserve but it is certainly something the Government wants to prioritise. I cannot provide the House with any specific budgetary commitments today and, for reasons Members understand, will be unable to do so until the estimates and budget are published. Health budget priorities are, ultimately, not decisions for the Department of Finance. They are decisions for the Department of Health and the HSE, which have the largest budget in the history of the State for health and social care."

However, Deputy Moynihan said he was still being told there is a huge reluctance in the Department of Finance to commit money to respite care. 

"I am told the amount of money being offered for respite care in 2018 is a pittance having regard to what is needed," he said. "I ask the Taoiseach for a firm commitment because officials are telling me there is no priority within the Department of Finance to fund respite care for 2018, notwithstanding the crying need for it. I meet parents every day who are in dire straits and need respite care."


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