The official response to the devastating flooding late last year and January’s crippling cold snap was branded unacceptable by a critical new report today.
An Oireachtas committee found disruption during the weather crises could have been greatly reduced if the state had been better informed, more prepared and adequately resourced.
The report said it was often unclear who was in charge in emergency situations and claimed serious communications lessons were needed for tackling any future emergencies.
Its authors also urged officials to inject more cash into planning and reacting to severe weather situations.
“Preparedness and responses will not improve if those resources are not put in place,” the report added.
Thousands of people were forced to evacuate their homes in the November flooding, which saw some of the heaviest rain and worst deluges on record.
Soon afterwards, the country was in the grip of a big freeze, with the coldest January since 1963 in the Dublin area.
While the Oireachtas Committee on Environment, Heritage and Local Government report praises the hard work of individuals, communities and state organisations during the crises, it also highlights a long list of inadequacies and puts forward numerous recommendations.
“The number and range of state bodies that have powers or responsibilities regarding inland waterways is truly breathtaking,” the report adds.
“The fragmented organisational distribution of responsibilities, as well as their fragmented regional structures within individual river catchments, would almost leave one at a loss as to where to begin in any modernisation of the arrangements.”
The report, which will be sent to Environment Minister John Gormley, calls for an urgent independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding the flooding of Cork City on November 19 and 20.
Committee member Ciaran Lynch said the onus is now on the minister to accept the report’s advice and appoint a panel of experts.
“We now have a framework in place to ascertain the facts of the situation, but the ball is in John Gormley’s court,” he added.
“We were very fortunate that not one life was lost in these extreme events during the winter, but we may not be as lucky next time if the recommendations of this report are not acted upon.”