President Michael D Higgins has said state bodies must work together to find a workable solution to the flooding crisis.
Speaking after his and his wife Sabina’s visit to the flood-hit village of Labane near Gort in south Co Galway, President Higgins called for all government agencies to set aside their personal agendas in favour of the common good, and to accelerate their response to the flooding crisis.
He spoke to a number of locals affected by the flooding, people who have been forced from their homes as well as the local volunteers, Civil Defence, and army personnel that have been working in the area.
“I have been thinking about it as well, in relation to where we have to go now. If there is a lesson, I think, in it, it is that we must have inter-agency cooperation,” said the President. “But what we really need now I think, is to accelerate the process of decision making, we need real co-operation between the agencies.
“There has to be give and take between the different stakeholders. There are different issues to be balanced and you can’t solve a problem like this by dealing with one dimension to it. My hope is that this will all happen, the consultations for example — which are often very long — can be ones in which people will approach them with generosity.”
He also said he would be “staying with this”.
“I have discussed it with the [OPW] Minister Simon Harris this morning. I have an article 28 [of the Constitution] meeting with the Taoiseach on the 14th and I’ll be discussing all these issues. I’ll be meeting people from Europe from time to time and I’ll certainly be trying to see how we can be prepared as best we can. And really that’s the issue,” said the President.
He called on politicians not to use the flooding crisis as some sort of political football to score points ahead of going to the polls and instead insisted that climate change is playing a huge part in the current crisis.
“As President, I am no longer involved in active politics. I think when I look back, it is possible to take good things we did together as communities in relation to decision making about farming, about planning, about housing. But it isn’t a time really for recrimination; it’s a time for action.
“There are those that would like to deny climate change. So let’s grow up and be responsible and let’s think long [term]. The people here, they really don’t want the unfortunate experience they have had since the middle of December to be used as some kind of football.
“Now let’s all use our intelligence to give us the very best result, make sure that we are best prepared, we should be the best prepared in Europe given our experience. And just take our decision quickly, effectively, by using science and technology and farming practice and old wisdom as well.”
After visiting the village of Labane, which straddles the current closed main Galway to Limerick N18 road, President Higgins visited Enniscorthy in Co Wexford.
However, before his departure, he praised the massive effort from the locals who are keeping their neighbours’ homes safe.
“It’s been a pleasure to be here in Labane where I know so many people... this is rural Ireland at its best,” he said.
“Sometimes I think what’s produced from rural Ireland doesn’t get a great deal of attention, but the lives of the people are very important.
“The particular features of it here, of course, are the number of houses that are isolated and marooned. I wanted to hear the experience that people have had for themselves and for their families and for their animals.”
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