O’Donovan raises need for national program of drainage works
Fine Gael TD Patrick O’Donovan has raised the need for a national program of drainage works as a means to try to prevent flooding in the Dáil. The Limerick Deputy told the Dáil that the recent flooding across the country had caused a huge amount of damage and while there was no doubt that the unprecedented weather itself was the main factor; he questioned whether the issue of land drainage was a major factor in the issue. He told the Dáil that the recent events had rightly received a great deal of national attention, but for some communities this was a fact of life for many years.
Patrick O’Donovan cited the example of flooding in Limerick in 2008 where communities and local authorities were left powerless to deal with issues that confronted them including the removal of gravel and other debris from rivers and streams. Deputy O’Donovan said that it was clear to everyone that when the village of Athea flooded in 2008, the eyes of the bridge over the River Gale in the middle of the village were blocked and full of debris, gravel and so on. The local authority was prevented from taking the material out to ease the flow of water. The reason it was prevented was because the area was a habitat. We should ask ourselves what type of habitat are we going to try to protect in future.
He said that it was clear to him and others that there were too many competing agencies involved in the maintenance of rivers and streams and while the River Shannon was the worst example of multiple agencies and competing interests, he told the Dáil that every parish in the country had similar situations of rivers and streams which no one would be able to do work in because no one knew who was responsible. The protection of habitats he said, were viewed in some cases as being more important than the protection of houses and individuals and this needed to be addressed.
Deputy O’Donovan said that the recently announced Rural Development Program would give an opportunity for this issue to be addressed and he asked if consideration could be given to the introduction of a scheme that would incentivise landowners and local communities to carry out remedial works in a manner similar to the REPS and AEOS schemes. He said it was clear that given the budgetary constraints that it was unlikely for the State to be able to maintain every river and stream in the near future and that is why new approaches were needed.
Minister Fergus O’Dowd replied to Patrick O’Donovan. He told the Dáil that the Government had reacted to the issue by providing funding for recent flooding; however he acknowledged the points that were raised. He gave Patrick O’Donovan a commitment that the issues which he raised would be considered by the relevant departments and agencies
Patrick O’Donovan said that he would continue to highlight the issue in the Dáil and would also raise it at the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party.