The Irish state is ready to spend €430 million over the next five years to tackle the flooding threat.
That was revealed this week after continued flooding around Ireland through Christmas and the New Year. Hundreds of people were forced to move out of their homes for the holiday period.
Following pre-Christmas destruction by Storm Eva, Storm Frank swept water into hundreds of homes and left thousands of acres of farmland under many feet of water as the Shannon and other rivers burst their banks.
Office of Public Works Minister Simon Harris said in Tuesday’s Irish Independent that the government’s capital investment plan will see €430 million spent in the next five years -- more than was spent in the past 20 years – on flood risk investment and flood works.
Meanwhile, the government gave Harris an immediate €10 million at a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday to distribute to local authorities to deal with the aftermath of recent flooding. That’s in addition to €8 million already earmarked to deal with the damage.
There will be regular reviews in the coming weeks in case more immediate money is needed as the cost of the damage becomes clearer.
\Ministers believe more than €40 million will be required to deal with road damage, the most expensive heading in the final clean-up bill.
The government is drawing up long-term strategies to deal with 300 areas across the state which are in danger of flooding.
The flood damage, the worst in living memory in Ireland, has been caused by a combination of events – climate change, construction of homes without adequate assessment of flood-risk plains during the Celtic Tiger building boom, and failure to dredge rivers for many decades.
A woman trapped in her Co. Kilkenny home when the river Nore overflowed claimed it and many other rivers hadn’t been dredged or treated in any way for over 100 years.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny was harshly criticized for failing to visit any of the flood areas over Christmas.
Following the criticism in the national press he visited a number of areas, including farmland and homes heavily flooded by Shannon overflow in the Athlone area.
Horse trainer Tom Cleary, who had to move his animals from his flooded training center near Athlone to facilities at the Curragh, told RTE that Kenny was “stunned” when he saw the damage caused by the floods.
Tanaiste Joan Burton appeared on every newspaper front page and on television as she toppled into flood waters from a canoe carrying her through the waterlogged streets of Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny.
President Michael D. Higgins, who visited flood areas in Galway and Wexford, rejected that an EU Habitats Directive, brought into force in 1997 when he was a government minister, was somehow responsible for preventing flood protection measures such as river dredging. Higgins said the effects of climate change were altering how all such matters were addressed.
He was backed by the European Commission which on Tuesday rejected suggestions that EU laws are to blame for the recent severe flooding in Ireland.
A spokeswoman for the commission said member states decide their own rules on how to manage their water courses.