Are we to be also blamed for the flooding?

We were allegedly responsible for the bust. Are we now to be deemed responsible for the floods as well? Flooding at local level has been with us for a very long time. Every year certain areas are guaranteed to flood and do so, on cue.

Local people got angry, fumed with frustration and demanded that the local authority, government, indeed anybody, do something about it to ensure it did not recur. However, like repairing our disaster of a water pipe system from the rates and taxes we paid, nothing was done. They say that ‘A stitch in time saves nine’ and now we are told that repairing the water network will cost €10bn and take 20 years.

Over recent years, flooding has dramatically increased. Areas that were immune hitherto are now prone to flooding. Bad weather seems to last longer and floods seem to be more frequent, even coming in spring and summer.

In the last few years, the central part of Cork City and some of the suburbs suffered severe flooding that cost tens of millions of euros. That was occasioned by a virtual ‘perfect storm’, where tides and rainfall were at their maximum and was further greatly exacerbated when ESB opened up the Inniscarra dam without adequate notice. As always, insurance companies and their ‘loss adjusters’ were found seriously wanting.

Government, once again, promised to resolve the issue but like most of government’s promises it never happened. So widespread flooding happens again this year and the promises are coming hot and heavy. Watch that can, as it’s kicked repeatedly up the road.

However, so far government, does not seem to have gone as far as one senior public servant in the UK who blamed those suffering from the floods for causing the floods. Chair of the Environment Agency Chris Smith suggested “developers and buyers of homes in flood plains must take their share of the blame for the flooding crisis”.

Mind you, he might have some cause for roping in developers in his remark. He further insisted that “anyone who builds in a flood plain, anyone who buys a property in a flood plain, needs to think about the flood risk”. Funnily enough he never mentioned ‘global warming’ Now Chris Smith is no ordinary peer.

He is a former Labour politician and a former Secretary of State in five departments, including Environment. Looking at his list of academic qualifications including a PhD, he seems to be a pretty bright man. We can only assume his comments, on responsibility for flooding, were a lapse in normal judgment.

But it does go to show that politicians, irrespective of where they are from, who they represent or what they believe in, accept no responsibility for anything negative. As they say, failure is an orphan. Success has many fathers.

If we are to properly attribute blame we need to look no further than government, be it local or national. Whilst we’d all love to live where we choose, the thickness of our wallets usually dictates where we can afford to buy. And where are houses cheaper? You got it – in a place where there is a risk of flooding or worse.

So who allowed houses to be built in flood plains? Again you got it — local politicians and planning officials. We’ve seen it all over Ireland. In fact, we in Ireland have housing areas that flood regularly and cannot be insured and we have empty housing estates galore to show for their competence, or lack thereof.

Our politicians did blame us for the end of the boom. After all, hadn’t we all lived off the fat of the land, ate, drank and were merry and forgot about tomorrow, or so our Taoiseach let the great and the good in Davos believe a few years ago. So I suppose we have to be grateful that they haven’t blamed us taxpaying cannon fodder for the floods.


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