Minister of state Ann Phelan made her comments after serious flooding affected her home town of Graiguenamanagh in the early hours of Wednesday, while many towns and roads in the region were hit by high river levels and heavy rainfall.
A number of homes in Graiguenamanagh were evacuated overnight after the River Duiske in the Co Kilkenny town burst its banks, while two boats were also lost to the floods.
Thomastown and Inistioge were among other areas in the county seriously hit by flood waters, with many local roads closed to traffic.
“It’s devastating,” Ms Phelan said in relation to Graiguenamanagh. “I’ve never actually seen it as bad as what has happened this morning. The levels of water were quite frightening.”
She said that, as the water in the both the Barrow and the Duiske rivers remained high on Wednesday afternoon, that she hoped they were “over the worst” but that long-term strategies are needed.
“I think we really have to plan now for how we deal with this. Climate change is becoming a real issue in our daily lives. We have to face up to that in a serious way to stop situations like this happening year in and year out.”
In Co Wexford, Enniscorthy was badly hit by flooding as the River Slaney burst its banks. In Waterford a number of rivers, including the Clodiagh in Portlaw, burst its banks, leading to road closures.
Senior engineer with Waterford Council, Ken Walsh, said the country’s infrastructure was not designed to deal with the current weather situation.
“One thing coming out of all this flooding lately is that there are areas flooding now that never flooded before,” he said.
“That’s a symptom of having the wettest December on the books. We can’t take much more rain. The infrastructure isn’t designed to take this level of rain, no more than any county.”
The prom area in Tramore was hit by dramatic waves overnight while the harbour area of Dungarvan was also affected by high sea levels.
Mr Walsh said the regional CFRAM (catchment flood risk assessment and management) group will be publishing flood maps for Co Waterford soon, “and that will lead to appropriate measures” provided funding is made available.
Many roads in Tipperary were in a dangerous condition because of flood water or fallen trees and poles.
Tipperary County Council closed several routes, including the N24 between Kilsheelan and Carrick-on-Suir because of the level of surface water on this stretch of the main Limerick-Waterford road.
There was also flooding in the Cloneen and Ardfinnan areas, while a number of roads in and around Clonmel were closed. These include the Convent Bridge which generally floods when the River Suir is high; Old Bridge where the glass panels installed as part of the town’s flood relief scheme were lowered to allow quicker passage of river water; part of the Coleville Road and Kilganey on the southern side of Clonmel; and the Quays where the Suir is being kept at bay by recently-built flood defence walls and demountable barriers.
Denis Burke Park on the southern bank of the river is completely under water, including the new playground, benches and performance area.
Other roads that were closed include the Davis Road between St Patrick’s Cemetery to the Moangarriff roundabout, Knocklofty Bridge, and the Dungarvan road between the Applegreen service station and the fingerpost sign junction.