Majority of areas 'without funds for defenses'
Only two towns had the cash for flood barriers
By Paul Melia and Aine Kerr Wednesday December 02 2009
ONLY two of the towns hit by flooding in the last 10 days have funding in place to build flood defense works.
Despite floods in towns and villages across eight counties, only Ennis in Clare and Clonmel in Tipperary have funding approved to carry out works which could have prevented millions of euro worth of damage to property.
Yesterday, the Dail Environment Committee heard that funding was not in place for schemes in towns identified by the Department of Social and Family Affairs as being the "main areas affected".
Funding has not been approved for any works in Clonlara or Corbally in Clare, while none was earmarked for Cork city, Bandon, Clonakilty, or Skibbereen which were all under water; and no funding was available for Ballinasloe and Gort in Co Galway or Athlone, Co Westmeath.
Minister of State at the Office of Public Works Martin Mansergh said that €1.3m had been earmarked for minor flood works -- but that none of the projects approved were in towns or villages deemed as being among the worst-hit.
Of the "major" schemes currently under way, only Clonmel and Ennis have been hit in recent weeks. Defense works for both towns are also planned for next year.
No schemes have been approved in Roscommon, Leitrim or Kildare which were also hit by flooding; but much of the funding approved is for towns which were hit in recent years including Carlow, Mallow, and Fermoy.
Mr Mansergh told the committee that erecting defenses did not guarantee that people and property would be protected, and that some homeowners were likely to relocate to other areas.
He added that schemes for some towns would have to be prioritized. "I think relocations are inevitable," he said.
"In the case of some homes, people may say in a few weeks' time, when the floods are gone, they cannot go on and that's something that will have to be addressed."
Up to 1,700 people had to be evacuated from their homes in recent weeks, many of whom will remain in temporary accommodation until flood waters subside and the damage to homes assessed.
He added that flood defenses did not guarantee that property and people would be protected. "The death toll in the UK is six people. One-in-100 year defenses were overrun by 12 inches of rain in 24 hours. The Department of the Environment and the Government generally will have to prioritize schemes."
Meanwhile, it emerged that more than 400 flood victims have received €125,000 in emergency payments from the Government. The payments are separate to the €10m Humanitarian Assistance Scheme which is now drawing applications from flood victims countrywide.
However, the amount has been criticized by Fine Gael which said yesterday that more money should have been given to people in financial difficulty.
"That's just buttons," Jim O'Keeffe told the committee. "Shouldn't a better effort have been made? That's half the value of an individual home. Could we not be doing better?"
But the Department of Social and Family Affairs said the money would not be spent until damage was assessed and repair works carried out.
Application forms and information about the emergency fund were published yesterday on the Department of Social and Family Affairs and the Community Welfare Service websites.
I am very much aware that it is easy for people to watch a 60 second news clip on television and say “Isn’t that awful?” Then when the news coverage is over there is not another thought given to what they just saw. If it doesn’t directly affect us, we tend to ignore it. This is human nature. Most of us have our own problems to deal with, however small they may be. But, there are times when, as members of a charitable organization, we must look beyond our own problems and offer our help to others. I believe this is one of those times.
The extensive flooding in Ireland is a tragedy of enormous proportions and it has caused thousands of Irish people to lose everything they have worked for all of their lives. Many of the flood victims were in dire straits already because of the collapse of the economy and the resultant widespread unemployment. I am very proud to say that members of the Ancient Order of Hibernians have always risen to the challenge and offered their help to those in need.
With the Holy Season of Christmas approaching, it is my sincere hope that we will follow our motto of True Christian Charity and continue our tradition of generosity to those in need especially those in the land of our beloved Irish heritage.