Government accused of Cork floods cover-up

THE Government has been accused of starting a “cover-up” of problems which contributed to the recent flooding in Cork.

Speaking during a Dáil debate on the issue, Fine Gael’s Bernard Allen questioned the actions of the ESB and the effectiveness of its warning system.

The ESB has consistently defended the company’s actions before and during the flood and has also rejected criticisms of the flood warnings it issued.

Mr Allen called on the Government to demand answers to a number of questions, including:

* What prompted the ESB to make the decision torelease the huge volume of water from the Inniscarra dam.

* If the ESB had released water from the dam in the weeks and months before the flooding to minimise the effects of heavy rainfall.

* Whether the structural integrity of the dam was under threat.

* What can be done in the long-term to protect the city from a repeat occurrence.

Mr Allen said that a fully transparent public inquiry is required into the events leading up to the flood.

“As this is the only format that will satisfy the victims of the flood, it must be done in a totally open manner,” he told the Dáil.

“An internal review involving the agencies and the Department of the Environment will not be sufficient.”

Mr Allen was backed by Labour’s Ciarán Lynch who said the need for an independent inquiry is becoming more obvious by the day.

“A public inquiry is the only way that we will be able to identify the flaws in the flood warning and flood defence systems as they currently operate, identify the shortcomings of the response to the recent flooding event by various bodies and agencies, and get a sense as to what lessons we can learn,” he said.

But responding on behalf of the Government, Junior Minister Trevor Sargent made no mention of an inquiry.

Instead, he said his colleague, Environment Minister John Gormley, had asked local authorities for reports on both the effects of the flooding, and an “assessment of the measures” to reduce the risk of future flooding.

“The deputy will appreciate that the minister does not have responsibility for the activities of the ESB and he awaits the report from Cork City Council which I am sure will cover the recent events relating to the release of water by the ESB,” Mr Sargent added.

Mr Allen claimed this response was “totally unsatisfactory” and the “start of a cover-up”.

“The ESB must be held accountable. Somebody must have responsibility. This is a cop-out. There should be no cover-up of the facts related to this,” he said.

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil’s Noel O’Flynn has confirmed the Dáil’s environment committee, chaired by Seán Fleming, has agreed to investigate the devastation across the country, with a specific focus on the massive flood which struck Cork in the early hours of November 20 last.

Mr O’Flynn said the committee will invite representatives from all the local authorities in areas affected by floods, and ESB officials, to outline the facts.

“Cork city’s water treatment plant was built over 150 years and the site never flooded,” Mr O’Flynn said.

“There must be questions to answer about why it was flooded this time.”

He said he expects the committee to draft recommendations about how state bodies should proceed in future.

ESB officials are due to meet with Cork’s Oireachtas members in the Dáil again today to answer further questions about the city’s flood disaster.


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