Taoiseach Enda Kenny failed to meet insurers to force them to compensate flood victims because he was “promoting” Ireland’s economic recovery while on expensive visits to Britain and Switzerland.
Tánaiste Joan Burton attempted to defend Mr Kenny’s decision to break a commitment to meet with insurance firms to broker a deal by last Tuesday during a Dáil debate yesterday.
Speaking in what was potentially the final leaders’ questions debate before the widely expected general election announcement next week, the Labour leader came under fire from Fianna Fáil over claims that the Government is not doing enough for those in need.
Fianna Fáil said that, despite saying a deal would be struck to ensure people in OPW flood-protected areas would be compensated after meeting insurance companies on January 12, no follow-on meeting took place as Mr Kenny was unavailable.
Ms Burton said Mr Kenny was unable to attend because he was instead telling foreign politicians and businesses about how Irish people are benefiting from the recovery.
“The reason the meeting did not take place was because of his commitments in the UK [to meet British prime minister David Cameron] and Davos [Switzerland, for the world economic forum] helping to promote Ireland,” she said.
“I don’t think anyone would have wished him not to go and defend Ireland.”
Fianna Fáil finance spokesman Michael McGrath told the Tánaiste not to “treat us like fools”.
He said the reality is this issue has not been addressed and asked if another meeting before the election has been planned. He said one area of east Galway has seen 60% of flood-hit homes turned down for insurance.
However, despite the criticism Ms Burton said it is important not to “rush into this” before “very serious analysis is undertaken”.
She said that the Department of Finance, the Office of Public Works, and Department of Environment have “undertaken a survey of other EU nations” in order to find out what additional actions are needed to protect households from floods.
She stressed that the Fine Gael-Labour Coalition has committed to investing €430m in future defences if it is re-elected to power.
Meanwhile, the Dáil has approved new measures to elect the next ceann comhairle by secret ballot in a long-called for move that is seen as being key to ensuring greater fairness in the political system.
Under the new rules, TDs will not be confined to party whips and can instead decide privately on who they want in the key position.
However, Independent TD Shane Ross criticised the move.
“Why do we need a secret ballot to elect the most important post in the House?” he questioned.
“Another insider will be elected and secret deals will be done.”
A new system of selecting the chairpersons of Oireachtas committees was also agreed.
Under other changes approved, the Taoiseach will now also be required to appear before the Working Group of Committee Chairs twice a year.
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