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Flood Prevention Policies: Motion (Resumed) [Private Members]

Wednesday, 4 November 2020

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 1000 No. 2
Unrevised

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Flood Prevention Policies: Motion (Resumed) [Private Members]

 The following motion was moved by Deputy Michael Collins on Wednesday, 4 November 2020:

That Dáil Éireann:

notes:

— that the Programme for Government contains a commitment to maintain a multiannual investment programme in flood relief measures to protect flood risk communities;

— that the objective of the European Union (EU) Floods Directive (2007/60/EU) is to establish a framework for the assessment and management of flood risks to reduce the negative consequences of flooding on human health, economic activities, the environment and cultural heritage in the EU;

— that the EU Floods Directive (2007/60/EU) crucially requires all member states to fully assess whether all water courses and coast lines are at risk from flooding, to quantify the overall risks and map the associated flood extent, assets and humans at risk in these areas and to take adequate and coordinated measures to reduce such flood risks;

— that flooding has far reaching negative and devastating impacts, such as emotional stress, the loss of individual homes, farms and businesses, severe associated health related issues and dramatic declines in economic competitiveness of impacted communities and regions;

— that while there has been significant social, infrastructural and economic damage caused by recent and repeated flooding across all regions, rural Ireland has been disproportionately impacted;

 — that the essential and basic maintenance of Ireland’s rivers and streams is not occurring;

— that it is increasingly clear in Ireland that the current approach to flood insurance is not fit for purpose, and as such, the Government must provide proper consultation for homeowners and businesses who through no fault of their own have been flooded, as little or nothing has been done so far to address this issue and ensure urgent improvements to the current and future availability and affordability of flood insurance;

— the issue of flooding in Ireland is expected to increase in the coming years, this is evident by the current major flooding and the reoccurring flooding over the last 15 years;

— that there is a significant misunderstanding displayed by certain agencies about the ‘once in 100 years’ flood, as it means a one per cent chance of severe flooding every year;

— that the issue of flooding along the Shannon catchment is likely to worsen, both through frequency from year-to-year, and the volume of water that is spilling over banks, gathering on people’s land and threatening or destroying their homes;

— that the number of staff available to the Office of Public Works (OPW) has reduced significantly in the past few years and this is one of the primary reasons ongoing flooding is occurring in specific areas;

— that the Irish Government has failed to drawdown any available funding from the European Union Solidarity Fund (EUSF), created as a relief fund to support regions impacted by severe floods across the EU, since 2009 where €13 million was allocated to Ireland from total allocations of some €5.5 billion, meaning Ireland is now the third lowest recipient of support under the scheme despite many severe flooding events here in recent years;

— that the existing flood alleviation measures in rural Ireland have proved grossly inadequate and ineffective in safeguarding communities from flood damage and heavy rains;

— the response of the OPW and local authorities’ Crisis Management and Severe Weather Assessment teams; and

— that addressing the damage caused by persistent and repeated flood damage will place substantial and unsustainable financial burdens on local authorities, farms, microenterprises, small to medium-sized enterprises and households; and

calls on the Government to:

— provide immediate and ongoing financial assistance to local authorities nationwide, to enable the timely delivery of local flood relief projects and schemes, to clear rivers, streams and drains aimed at preventing damage to businesses and private homes in towns and villages of impacted areas;

— ensure that local authorities have sufficient autonomy to facilitate the removal of silt or other obstructions, including but not limited to, over-hanging trees and branches along rivers, due to their destructive impact on flooding and consequentially on homes and businesses;

— increase the threshold of the Minor Flood Mitigation Works and Coastal Protection funding scheme, available to local authorities, from €750,000 (maximum currently) to €1 million for each project and to fast-track the processing of applications in order to alleviate the current delays associated with progressing valid submissions under the programme's economic, social and environmental criteria;

— urgently fast-track and deliver the development of the planned 150 flood relief schemes that form part of the Government’s €1 billion investment in flood relief over the lifetime of the National Development Plan to 2027, provide an annual review or update to Dáil Éireann on the implementation of the investment programme, in order to secure accountability, assess implementation and keep all impacted local citizens and communities fully up to date;

— immediately introduce a ‘ring-fenced’ current and capital funding scheme for each local authority to increase roadside operatives (employees) and contractors, with the requisite capital allocations to clear, sustain and maintain drains, gulleys, dykes and water courses;

— immediately introduce a ‘ring-fenced’ budget to each local authority to allow for cutting back road-side verges, hedges, and fences in rural communities, in the interests of flood risk prevention and road user public safety;

— immediately introduce a proper compensation package for businesses and homeowners negatively impacted with property damage or destroyed by flooding, as the current humanitarian-aid scheme omits private homes and businesses with insurance, despite some businesses having to cover their own excess of up to €10,000 per annum;

— immediately apply (as applications must be received by the Commission within 12 weeks of the date of the first damage caused by the event) for emergency funding under the multi-billion-euro EUSF to support Irish regions impacted by recent flooding across the country;

— intensify efforts to collate data on Ireland’s flooding crisis, as continuing to blame it on climate change alone is much too simplistic and idle a policy, given that across Europe, rivers are drying up in some areas, and also getting stronger, with more forceful currents in others;

— immediately increase the number of staff available to the OPW and other relevant bodies tasked with ensuring adequate levels of drainage, flood management and prevention;

— ensure the OPW carries out programmed maintenance on rivers and streams to prevent the build-up from trees, rubbish and other such debris;

— immediately critically review and publish the effectiveness of the strategies adopted by the Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management (CFRAM) Programme, the Flood Risk Management Plans (FRMPs) and the Shannon Flood Risk State Agency Co-ordination Working Group for the reduction of flood risk, publish the findings and determine whether a new single authority is needed to address issues on the Shannon (currently the OPW and the Electricity Supply Board (ESB) manages dams such as Parteen weir, while the North-South body, known as Waterways Ireland have responsibility for the rivers);

— implement significant reforms of regulations governing hedge and vegetation cutting,specifically where these materially impact the capacity of local authorities, landowners or farmers to manage and reduce flooding risks;

— put in place preventative measures for when tides are dangerously high and adopt a revised Coastal Zone Management Policy that is more integrated and more forward looking than is currently the case;

— undertake a programme to cut trees and roadside hedges along power lines, to prevent them falling onto power lines during storms, which has been shown to cause major power outages for prolonged periods;

— explore, and where possible, encourage the use of river dredging as part of a suite of measures to reduce the risk of flooding, due to the bed of silt, or clay, lying at the bottom of some rivers that has a significant impact on the water levels;

— end the short-term, stop-gap approach, to flood insurance immediately, and move to a more sustainable flood insurance approach by:
— significantly increasing efforts to address the underlying risks now and in the future, as this will help to ensure the affordability and availability of insurance; and

— increase transparency and provide clarity to citizens and stakeholders so that insurance companies cannot hide behind inaccurate, market-fixing or unsubstantiated data by implementing sanctions on such providers;
— prioritise the availability of insurance for homes and businesses adversely affected by flooding or heavy rains;

— allow farmers and landowners take the build-up of gravel and silt out of rivers as previously carried out by farmers over many generations;

— allow farmers and landowners to remove branches or trees from rivers or streams, at any time of year, without the threat of any prosecution for doing so;

— urgently proceed with clearing the remainder of the Flesk and Laune rivers, to protect the safety of residents and businesses in Killarney and Killorglin, together with similar works to be carried out on the Maine and Gweestin rivers in mid-Kerry and Castleisland areas; and

— expediate significant capital allocations to at risk towns across the country, such as Kenmare and Bantry, for flood remediation measures, while also ensuring short-term alleviation measures, such as clearing out under all bridges, occurs.

Debate resumed on amendment No. 1:

To delete all words after “Dáil Éireann” and substitute the following:

“calls for:

- further progression of the whole of Government approach that is delivering returns to managing the flood risk and coastal change for rural Ireland;

- an examination of the current regulatory requirements to be carried out; and

- the Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform with responsibility for the Office of Public Works to undertake a consultation through the Oireachtas committee structures on how best to deliver flood relief measures into the future given the challenges of climate change.”

-(Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy O'Donovan)

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly I must now deal with a postponed division relating to the motion regarding flood prevention policies. This morning, on the question that the amendment to the motion be agreed to, a division was claimed and in accordance with Standing Order 80(2), that division must be taken now.

Amendment put:

The Dáil divided: Tá, 85; Níl, 59; Staon, 0.

Níl    Staon
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Information on Simon Coveney  Zoom on Simon Coveney  Coveney, Simon. Information on Kathleen Funchion  Zoom on Kathleen Funchion  Funchion, Kathleen.    
Information on Barry Cowen  Zoom on Barry Cowen  Cowen, Barry. Information on Gary Gannon  Zoom on Gary Gannon  Gannon, Gary.    
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Information on Kieran O'Donnell  Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell  O'Donnell, Kieran.      
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Information on Fergus O'Dowd  Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd  O'Dowd, Fergus.      
Information on Roderic O'Gorman  Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman  O'Gorman, Roderic.      
Information on Christopher O'Sullivan  Zoom on Christopher O'Sullivan  O'Sullivan, Christopher.      
Information on Pádraig O'Sullivan  Zoom on Pádraig O'Sullivan  O'Sullivan, Pádraig.      
Information on Marc Ó Cathasaigh  Zoom on Marc Ó Cathasaigh  Ó Cathasaigh, Marc.      
Information on Éamon Ó Cuív  Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív  Ó Cuív, Éamon.      
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Information on Neale Richmond  Zoom on Neale Richmond  Richmond, Neale.      
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Information on Eamon Ryan  Zoom on Eamon Ryan  Ryan, Eamon.      
Information on Brendan Smith  Zoom on Brendan Smith  Smith, Brendan.      
Information on Niamh Smyth  Zoom on Niamh Smyth  Smyth, Niamh.      
Information on Ossian Smyth  Zoom on Ossian Smyth  Smyth, Ossian.      
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Tellers: Tá, Deputies Brendan Griffin and Jack Chambers; Níl, Deputies Carol Nolan and Michael Collins.

Amendment declared carried.

Question put: "That the motion, as amended, be agreed to."

The Dáil divided: Tá, 82; Níl, 57; Staon, 0.

Níl    Staon
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Information on Michael Creed  Zoom on Michael Creed  Creed, Michael. Information on Gary Gannon  Zoom on Gary Gannon  Gannon, Gary.    
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Information on Bernard J. Durkan  Zoom on Bernard J. Durkan  Durkan, Bernard J. Information on Gino Kenny  Zoom on Gino Kenny  Kenny, Gino.    
Information on Damien English  Zoom on Damien English  English, Damien. Information on Martin Kenny  Zoom on Martin Kenny  Kenny, Martin.    
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Information on Peter Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Peter Fitzpatrick  Fitzpatrick, Peter. Information on Mattie McGrath  Zoom on Mattie McGrath  McGrath, Mattie.    
Information on Joe  Flaherty  Zoom on Joe  Flaherty  Flaherty, Joe. Information on Michael McNamara  Zoom on Michael McNamara  McNamara, Michael.    
Information on Charles Flanagan  Zoom on Charles Flanagan  Flanagan, Charles. Information on Denise Mitchell  Zoom on Denise Mitchell  Mitchell, Denise.    
Information on Sean Fleming  Zoom on Sean Fleming  Fleming, Sean. Information on Imelda Munster  Zoom on Imelda Munster  Munster, Imelda.    
Information on Norma Foley  Zoom on Norma Foley  Foley, Norma. Information on Catherine Murphy  Zoom on Catherine Murphy  Murphy, Catherine.    
Information on Brendan Griffin  Zoom on Brendan Griffin  Griffin, Brendan. Information on Paul Murphy  Zoom on Paul Murphy  Murphy, Paul.    
Information on Seán Haughey  Zoom on Seán Haughey  Haughey, Seán. Information on Johnny Mythen  Zoom on Johnny Mythen  Mythen, Johnny.    
Information on Emer Higgins  Zoom on Emer Higgins  Higgins, Emer. Information on Ged Nash  Zoom on Ged Nash  Nash, Ged.    
Information on Neasa Hourigan  Zoom on Neasa Hourigan  Hourigan, Neasa. Information on Carol Nolan  Zoom on Carol Nolan  Nolan, Carol.    
Information on Heather Humphreys  Zoom on Heather Humphreys  Humphreys, Heather. Information on Cian O'Callaghan  Zoom on Cian O'Callaghan  O'Callaghan, Cian.    
Information on Paul Kehoe  Zoom on Paul Kehoe  Kehoe, Paul. Information on Richard O'Donoghue  Zoom on Richard O'Donoghue  O'Donoghue, Richard.    
Information on John Lahart  Zoom on John Lahart  Lahart, John. Information on Louise O'Reilly  Zoom on Louise O'Reilly  O'Reilly, Louise.    
Information on James Lawless  Zoom on James Lawless  Lawless, James. Information on Darren O'Rourke  Zoom on Darren O'Rourke  O'Rourke, Darren.    
Information on Brian Leddin  Zoom on Brian Leddin  Leddin, Brian. Information on Eoin Ó Broin  Zoom on Eoin Ó Broin  Ó Broin, Eoin.    
Information on Marc MacSharry  Zoom on Marc MacSharry  MacSharry, Marc. Information on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire  Zoom on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire  Ó Laoghaire, Donnchadh.    
Information on Josepha Madigan  Zoom on Josepha Madigan  Madigan, Josepha. Information on Ruairí Ó Murchú  Zoom on Ruairí Ó Murchú  Ó Murchú, Ruairí.    
Information on Catherine Martin  Zoom on Catherine Martin  Martin, Catherine. Information on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin  Zoom on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin  Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán.    
Information on Steven  Matthews  Zoom on Steven  Matthews  Matthews, Steven. Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh  Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh  Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.    
Information on Paul  McAuliffe  Zoom on Paul  McAuliffe  McAuliffe, Paul. Information on Maurice Quinlivan  Zoom on Maurice Quinlivan  Quinlivan, Maurice.    
Information on Charlie McConalogue  Zoom on Charlie McConalogue  McConalogue, Charlie. Information on Patricia  Ryan  Zoom on Patricia  Ryan  Ryan, Patricia.    
Information on Helen McEntee  Zoom on Helen McEntee  McEntee, Helen. Information on Sean Sherlock  Zoom on Sean Sherlock  Sherlock, Sean.    
Information on Michael McGrath  Zoom on Michael McGrath  McGrath, Michael. Information on Duncan Smith  Zoom on Duncan Smith  Smith, Duncan.    
Information on Joe McHugh  Zoom on Joe McHugh  McHugh, Joe. Information on Brian Stanley  Zoom on Brian Stanley  Stanley, Brian.    
Information on Aindrias Moynihan  Zoom on Aindrias Moynihan  Moynihan, Aindrias. Information on Peadar Tóibín  Zoom on Peadar Tóibín  Tóibín, Peadar.    
Information on Michael Moynihan  Zoom on Michael Moynihan  Moynihan, Michael. Information on Pauline  Tully  Zoom on Pauline  Tully  Tully, Pauline.    
Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor  Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor  Murnane O'Connor, Jennifer. Information on Mark Ward  Zoom on Mark Ward  Ward, Mark.    
Information on Eoghan Murphy  Zoom on Eoghan Murphy  Murphy, Eoghan. Information on Jennifer  Whitmore  Zoom on Jennifer  Whitmore  Whitmore, Jennifer.    
Information on Verona Murphy  Zoom on Verona Murphy  Murphy, Verona. Information on Violet-Anne Wynne  Zoom on Violet-Anne Wynne  Wynne, Violet-Anne.    
Information on Denis Naughten  Zoom on Denis Naughten  Naughten, Denis.      
Information on Hildegarde Naughton  Zoom on Hildegarde Naughton  Naughton, Hildegarde.      
Information on Malcolm Noonan  Zoom on Malcolm Noonan  Noonan, Malcolm.      
Information on Darragh O'Brien  Zoom on Darragh O'Brien  O'Brien, Darragh.      
Information on Jim O'Callaghan  Zoom on Jim O'Callaghan  O'Callaghan, Jim.      
Information on James O'Connor  Zoom on James O'Connor  O'Connor, James.      
Information on Willie O'Dea  Zoom on Willie O'Dea  O'Dea, Willie.      
Information on Kieran O'Donnell  Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell  O'Donnell, Kieran.      
Information on Patrick O'Donovan  Zoom on Patrick O'Donovan  O'Donovan, Patrick.      
Information on Fergus O'Dowd  Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd  O'Dowd, Fergus.      
Information on Roderic O'Gorman  Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman  O'Gorman, Roderic.      
Information on Christopher O'Sullivan  Zoom on Christopher O'Sullivan  O'Sullivan, Christopher.      
Information on Pádraig O'Sullivan  Zoom on Pádraig O'Sullivan  O'Sullivan, Pádraig.      
Information on Marc Ó Cathasaigh  Zoom on Marc Ó Cathasaigh  Ó Cathasaigh, Marc.      
Information on Éamon Ó Cuív  Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív  Ó Cuív, Éamon.      
Information on Anne Rabbitte  Zoom on Anne Rabbitte  Rabbitte, Anne.      
Information on Neale Richmond  Zoom on Neale Richmond  Richmond, Neale.      
Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  Ring, Michael.      
Information on Eamon Ryan  Zoom on Eamon Ryan  Ryan, Eamon.      
Information on Brendan Smith  Zoom on Brendan Smith  Smith, Brendan.      
Information on Niamh Smyth  Zoom on Niamh Smyth  Smyth, Niamh.      
Information on Ossian Smyth  Zoom on Ossian Smyth  Smyth, Ossian.      
Information on David Stanton  Zoom on David Stanton  Stanton, David.      
Information on Robert Troy  Zoom on Robert Troy  Troy, Robert.      
Information on Leo Varadkar  Zoom on Leo Varadkar  Varadkar, Leo.      

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Brendan Griffin and Jack Chambers; Níl, Deputies Carol Nolan and Michael Collins.

Question declared carried.


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