It is time for a “national conversation” on severe weather following weeks in which several parts of the country have been deluged by flood water, Tánaiste Joan Burton has said.

Such weather events are now happening with more frequency and greater severity, Ms Burton said during a visit to Co Kilkenny, where she met residents and business people whose properties were hit by water in recent days.

About €430m has been set aside by the Government for various flood relief schemes across the country and the Tánaiste said any funding needed for humanitarian relief will be provided.

“I think there’s a national conversation required because the difficult weather conditions are happening more frequently and with greater severity,” she said.

“Now you have a lot of built-up areas around towns, and the passage of the flood waters can be very swift, as with here in Thomastown.

“People didn’t get a lot of notice, but I think the community spirit and the work of the agencies and all of the volunteers actually prevented even worse damage happening to people’s homes and their business premises.”

Speaking in general about floods, she said: “As a country, we have to face up to the fact that we’re getting more severe weather events more quickly and [because of] the consequences those events have, particularly in built-up areas, I think we’re going to have to do a very detailed national review.”

Flood defence and prevention schemes in prone towns and villages have to be preceded by “a lot of community consultation,” she said, “taking into account community knowledge, to find ways of addressing flooding issues that will both prevent the flooding but also preserve the environment of very historic towns like Thomastown and Graiguenamanagh”.

Completed schemes in towns like Fermoy, Co Cork, Dunboyne, Co Meath, and Kilkenny City, have had a “very positive effect” in terms of preventing severe flooding, she said.

“There’s nothing worse than a flood. Every year, the Department of Social Protection deals with 30 or 40 families right around the country who are badly affected by flooding, even in the context of normal winters, so we have a well- established humanitarian scheme. But I can tell you that money is no compensation, really, for what happens to people and just the destruction, the smell, the dirt, the time it takes to dry out and also to ensure as well that people are safe.”

Asked if she felt Taoiseach Enda Kenny was doing enough to visit communities affected by flooding, she said: “ I know myself privately, and I think the same is true for the Taoiseach, I’ve been to see a lot of people in different areas over the course of the last eight weeks, because people probably forget now but at the very end of November, beginning of December, there were 10 families for instance in Tralee, who were affected by flooding and had to move out of their homes, and avail of the humanitarian supports available from the Department of Social Protection.”


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