The possible relocation of flooded families is not a priority for government, the Minister for Agriculture has said.
Speaking during a visit in Clonlara, South East Clare, where families have been evacuated following the winter storms, Minister Simon Coveney said it was “far too early” to start relocations.
“I don’t think that we are looking at that option at the moment,” he said.
“We need to look at more effective ways at managing [the River Shannon] flow to prevent flooding in the future,” he said.
“And, only when we have done that, will anybody concede that we have to start relocating people.”
Mr Coveney added that there had to be a change in how the River Shannon is managed.
He said the Government needed to act on suggestions for flood defences.
He also said he attended a meeting in Athlone on Saturday night where people called for “a single authority” to manage the river, “so that we would get coordination” along the Shannon, which would also “include the management flows by ESB”.
The minister said he “understands the engineering challenges of what the ESB face, both at Parteen Weir and at the hydro- [electric] power station at Ardnacrusha” but he asked, “whether we can improve the [ESB] management and communications”.
In response, the ESB said a single authority was a matter for Government.
It added: “ESB works very closely with the OPW and Waterways Ireland in relation to ESB’s operations on the Shannon and has regular contact with the Local Authorities along the river as well.”
“The minister is correct - at no stage during flood situations is ESB’s priority on generating electricity - rather it is on maximising the flow of water away from the vulnerable areas down stream.”
The ESB agreed it needed “to find new solutions that are more effective, in terms of letting water in the River Shannon escape more efficiently into the sea”.
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