Floods – Government pledge of Shannon ‘co-ordinating task force’ not enough, says Gerry Adams

● Limerick City Sinn Féin Councillor Maurice Quinlivan helps with flood relief

THE GOVERNMENT has partially conceded Gerry Adams’s call he made to Taoiseach Enda Kenny in the Dáil before Christmas for a single authority to be given total responsibility for the River Shannon and a strategy to deal with flooding. But the announcement of a ‘co-ordinating task force’, though welcome, does not go far enough, the Sinn Féin leader said.

“Sinn Féin believes a Shannon River Authority is needed to ensure that there is proper co-ordination and a robust response from the various agencies responsible and to take the necessary steps to minimise the risk of flooding in the future,” he said.

Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald told RTÉ News that the Government’s reaction to the floods to date was piecemeal and the new task force was insufficient if it did not have statutory powers. She repeated the call for a single Shannon River Agency.

Gerry Adams had said yet again earlier in the day that the fact that there had been not one overarching agency responsible for management of the river and to co-ordinate the response to massive flooding in the region was “frankly bizarre”.

But the junior minister responsible for the Office of Public Works, Fine Gael TD Simon Harris, claimed the idea was “premature” despite the devastation and millions in costs caused to families, communities and businesses along the Shannon as well as across the state.

Deputy Adams was responding to the Taoiseach’s chairing of a meeting of the various agencies with responsibilities in respect of the Shannon region today. These include the ESB, Bord na Mona, the National Parks & Wildlife Service, and Waterways Ireland.

Teachta Adams said:

“In the Dáil before Christmas, I called on the Taoiseach directly to ensure that a single agency is empowered with responsibility for management of the River Shannon.

“The Government has consistently failed to deal with the issue of flooding in a strategic and co-ordinated fashion and, as a result, we have seeing a repeat of very serious problems witnessed in the past.

“The majority of the consistent and repeated flooding we have seen in recent years has been in the Shannon region. The fact that there exists no single agency responsible for management of the river and to co-ordinate the response to flooding in the region is frankly bizarre.

“The Taoiseach rejected my proposal before Christmas but gave no logical rationale. The fact that he is chairing a meeting of the various agencies with responsibility for the Shannon today clearly demonstrates that a co-ordinating body is required to ensure an adequate response to flooding and to prevent flooding in the future. The Taoiseach must now accept that fact.”

The Taoiseach later did.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke, Met Éireann’s Gerard Fleming said:

“I think we’re heading towards the end of the unusually high levels of rainfall that we saw at the end of December.

“But I think even normal amounts of rainfall at the moment, given that the rivers are so high and the fields are completely waterlogged, that amount of rainfall may still cause a problem over the days to come.”