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Estimates for Public Services 2020 (Continued)

Thursday, 23 July 2020

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 995 No. 5

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Joe Carey: Information on Joe Carey Zoom on Joe Carey] All the agencies, Clare County Council, the Office of Public Works, OPW, the National Parks and Wildlife Service and Irish Rail came together to produce a report. Will the Minister of State resurrect that work to bring about a solution? It is a much used piece of infrastructure and has been flooded over the past decade.

The minor works scheme is an essential tool. Will the Minister of State consider enhancing this particular scheme? Much of what is not facilitated through the Arterial Drainage Act can be facilitated through the scheme. Will the Minister of State consider expanding the scheme's role?

The Minister of State has attended meetings with me, as have other Oireachtas Members from the mid-west region, about the Shannon Heritage sites. The State-owned assets of Bunratty Castle and Folk Park, King John's Castle, Craggaunowen Castle, Knappogue Castle and Dunguaire Castle are magnets for drawing tourists into the area and drivers of tourism traffic to smaller attractions across County Clare and the mid-west region. The Shannon Group intends to close these sites on 31 August, however. Such a move would lead to the loss of jobs on the sites themselves and would have a detrimental impact on County Clare. Bunratty Village indirectly employs 600 people in the hospitality and services sector. Their trade is intrinsically linked to visitors coming to the Bunratty site. Its closure will have a detrimental impact on them.

There is a need for an interim arrangement to be put in place and a cash injection to keep these sites going on a year-round basis. A new home for Shannon Heritage is also needed. Perhaps the OPW, Clare County Council or Limerick County Council could step in to provide a lifeline to these particular sites. This is critically important. What are the views of the Minister of State on this?

Deputy Alan Dillon: Information on Alan  Dillon Zoom on Alan  Dillon I also want to extend my best wishes to the Ministers of State, Deputies O'Donovan and Ossian Smyth. I wish them every success in their new roles and portfolios. I look forward to working with them both in the period ahead.

One particular project of vital importance in the Mayo constituency is ensuring that the Crossmolina flood relief scheme goes to tender as quickly as possible. As we are discussing the Revised Estimates for the Office of Public Works today, I welcome the funding that has been allocated to the Crossmolina flood relief scheme. This is an area which has seen repeated flooding of a severe nature, adversely impacting local residents and business owners who are living in fear of further flooding potential.

The Minister of State's predecessor, along with other Oireachtas Members, councillors and me, met with the Crossmolina community to get an update on progress of the project plans last October. While funding has been allocated and secured for this €10 million project to succeed, it has been delayed for various technical reasons. I want to ensure no further delays occur.

I note a new fire station went to tender in May, which will be a welcome addition to tackling flooding in the winter months once it is completed. However, local residents are living in fear of gloomy skies, fearful of the devastating impact further flooding will cause to their livelihoods and community. I am aware that both the OPW and Mayo County Council, working in collaboration with the local flood action group, have been proactive in implementing interim flood protection measures in Crossmolina pending the construction of permanent flood defences. It is now time, however, to ensure there are no further delays in proceeding with the erection of permanent defences. Significant time has been given to ensuring the scheme adheres to both Irish and European environmental legislation for which significant effort has been made.

I truly empathise with the local community when rising waters devastate their homes and businesses. Crossmolina is one community which quite simply cannot afford to wait any longer for its flood defences. Accordingly, I am hoping the Minister of State, Deputy O'Donovan, will be able to provide an update on the timeline for when the project will proceed.

Deputy Patrick O'Donovan: Information on Patrick O'Donovan Zoom on Patrick O'Donovan On Cloonlara and the area around Springfield in particular, Clare County Council applied under Part 10 for planning permission on 20 July. I lend my support to the council's application for that scheme. The OPW is committed to it. I am a neighbour down the road in County Limerick. We in the mid-west know the connection between Cloonlara and Limerick. We have sympathy for the people in this area because there is much history with the Shannon scheme. What happened over several occasions was terrible.

The current costs for the Shannon flood scheme are estimated at €20 million. It is the airport that is applying for permission. Consultants have been appointed for the design of the scheme. Again, it is not just of a local but national infrastructural importance, considering the importance of the airport and protecting it. The OPW is supportive of what the Shannon Group is trying to do in this regard.

I am aware of the issues around the rail line because many people use it for commuting. It is the main rail line from Ennis to Dublin and Limerick to Galway. The Government is committed in the programme for Government to increase rail usage and to get more people using public transport. There is a problem with this line north of Limerick when there is heavy rain and it floods. The OPW is part of a group which is working with the stakeholders in ensuring an alleviation can be got there. I will revert to Deputy Carey on the latest update.

I thank Deputy Carey for his initiative to bring all Oireachtas Members from the mid-west together on Shannon Airport. It involves not just the airport but also the properties and the Shannon Heritage group. I responded earlier on this. The OPW is prepared to assist in terms of advice and co-operation, particularly around the area of protecting national monuments. The councils have an important role as does the Shannon Group. Aviation is the responsibility of the Minister of State, Deputy Hildegarde Naughton. Her role will be formalised tomorrow. I am sure this will be one of the issues she will be anxious to progress as she is also a local Deputy.

Deputy Dillon has raised the issue of the Crossmolina flood relief scheme in the House on several occasions. It is a €13.5 million scheme but it has run into several difficulties, primarily due to the karst landscape, with many underground drainage issues. It is not the easiest of flood relief schemes to design. An OPW team is finalising the environmental impact statement. Hopefully, we should be in a position to go for approval for the next stage in the third quarter of the year.

I thank the Deputies for raising these issues. These are important issues for the people of Crossmolina, Cloonlara and Shannon.

Deputy Joe Carey: Information on Joe Carey Zoom on Joe Carey On the Ennis South flood relief scheme, it is the third and last part of a €40 million investment in providing flood protection works for Ennis. This and other schemes such as the Shannon flood relief scheme will have embankments. Will the Minister of State give consideration to provide cycling and walking lanes along these embankments? Funding has been set aside for the development of greenways in the programme for Government.

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