On a recent Monday the River Suir was within 6 in. of coming over the 5 ft. high walls in Carrick-on-Suir but it did not do so, Labour senator Denis Landy told the Upper House. If it had done so, we would have been “back to the drawing board”.
“It was the worst recorded flood in the town, yet the defences held,” he said. “It was fantastic and I commend those who stuck out their necks.”
Speaking during a debate on the recent storm damage, he said in 1996 the late Minister, Hugh Coveney, visited Carrick-on-Suir in the midst of a similar crisis and committed to sorting out the matter.
“Good work has been done, but much more has to be done,” he said. “I have been in contact with many local authority members in affected areas. The Minister of State (Brian Hayes) visited Limerick, and I have spoken to councillor Tom Shortt, who is very active on this issue. He asked me whether it was a freak situation and whether we would see it again. On 1 February the amount of water that came in created a saucer effect in the St. Mary’s Park area of Limerick and the water could not get out. The tide did not bring it back out. How will this be addressed? Much of the money, amounting to millions of euro, spent on getting the area ready for regeneration has been wasted.”
Anyone who saw the photograph, which has gone viral, of the seafront and road in Tramore would have been frightened, he said. It took 14 trucks of cement to fill the gap. The particular problems there are ongoing and have also been experienced in Dunmore East and Passage East.
On the question of insurance, Senator Landy said it seems one is insured until one experiences the first flood and then one is out of the system. “My grandparents lived in a house in Mill Street in Carrick-on-Suir in 1912 and were consistently flooded for three or four years before insurance companies existed,” he said. “They moved house because of it. Since then thousands of houses have been allowed to be built on flood plains, but they were accepted by insurance companies in the knowledge of where they were. However, after a flooding problem first arose the insurance companies no longer insured them. Insurance companies in the health sector are not allowed cherry-pick in the market and must take what comes in the door. We had much debate on this when new companies entered the market. We should tell insurance companies that they cannot cherry-pick in the house insurance market or run away from a problem when it occurs.”
deputy Healy accuses Taoiseach of failing to answer questions on water charges
South Tipperary Deputy Seamus Healy accused the Taoiseach of failing to answer questions on water charges and of trying to avoid the issue until after the local and European elections in May.
Speaking during Leaders’ Questions representing the Technical Group, he said he had asked a number of basic questions on water charges, which the Government will introduce on 1 October 2014. “I asked whether families would be charged for water in cases where their water supply was not fit for purpose, a boil water notice was in place or hard water was being provided that was affecting electrical appliances,” he said. “I also asked what would be the charge, whether a free allowance would be provided, if so, how much the allowance would be, and if a higher free allowance would be provided for larger families and persons with a medical condition which necessitates greater use of water.”
The Taoiseach had refused to answer his questions and dismissed his suggestion that he was attempting to kick this issue down the road beyond the European and local elections, he said. However, he provided a definitive assurance that members of the public would know the precise position in respect of water charges before the European and local elections. He stated: “In the next couple of weeks, the Government will bring to the House the financial and structural model under which Irish Water will operate and it will include a very clear analysis and presentation of how this will operate, the extent of the charges that will apply, the follow through on the use of an allowance of water and the charge thereafter.”
However, at a meeting of the Joint Committee on the Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht, representatives of Irish Water and the Commission for Energy Regulation stated precisely the opposite, noting that an indicative charge would be announced by June and the charge would be set in August, both of which months fall after the European and local elections. “Either the Taoiseach misled the House or Irish Water and the regulator misled the Joint Committee ,” said Deputy Healy.
In reply the Taoiseach said he stood by his statement to Deputy Healy that the Government will, before the local elections, produce, publish and debate the financial and business model dealing with the structure and running of Irish Water.
“In its commitment to set up Irish Water, the Government stated there would be a free allowance per person and a charge would be levied for usage thereafter,” he said. “The business and financial model and structure the Government will present will include the level of subvention the Government intends to provide from the taxpayer for the allowance that will be included in that structure. This will set out the average charge per household. Shortly thereafter, Irish Water will submit to the regulator its detailed plan, taking into account what has been determined in Government policy and decisions. The Government will make the decision about the level of subvention, which will determine the extent of the allowance and the average charge per household. I cannot tell Deputy Healy what he will be charged in January 2015 when he receives a bill because I do not know the culture of water usage he will adopt.”