Minister of State Brian Hayes said a “new defence scheme” will be implemented to upgrade the country’s flood defences.
Finance Minister Michael Noonan reiterated the Government’s commitment to flood-hit communities, adding: “We’re not going to leave the public in the lurch.”
Speaking on a walkabout in St Mary’s Park, Limerick, where unprecedented floods have swamped 200 acres, Mr Hayes, who was joined by Mr Noonan, said the Government would ensure communities would be “protected”.
“This is a terrible situation that people are in,” said Mr Hayes. “We have got to make sure the people of this area never ever have to go through this appalling situation.
“As an immediate solution, we will be putting in place temporary measures over the course of the next few days to make sure some protection is given to the community, just in case the high tides come again.
“We are also going to bring forward, as a matter of urgency, a new defence scheme that will give protection to all of the communities that are here, and we want to do that as part of the regeneration programme, which is crucial to the city of Limerick. All parties back that approach. It’s an approach that’s going to cost money.
“I can assure you, and the Government can assure you, of our support of making sure that happens.”
He said the immediate time-frame to implement temporary flood defences would be “this week”, and long-term flood defences would follow “ASAP”.
Some 300 homes were destroyed in Limerick’s wider King’s Island area, where many householders failed to secure insurance.
“For people with no insurance, we need to get the basics in ASAP,” said Mr Hayes. “As far as I am concerned, and the minister for social protection is concerned, that money is there, we have funds there to do that. There is €10m in a pot of humanitarian funds relief for the country.
“It’s in place and, as people apply, the money will go out.”
“If extra money is required, we will provide it,” Mr Noonan added.
The Limerick TD said the flooding — which destroyed communities across the country — was, in his opinion, down to climate change, which could not have been foreseen by local authorities.
“All down the south west that has happened,” Mr Noonan said. “I think we all now believe in climate change, and we must make more provision for higher tides. So, the defences that were here — with the new climates that we are having all around the world — are no longer adequate. And we’ll put in temporary defences in the next week or so, and we’ll put permanent defences in so that, when high tides come again, they’ll [the defences] have to carry about another metre and a half extra.”
Mr Noonan said he believed extra funding would be needed and pledged the money would be taken from the national budget. He said the Government is to allow local authorities to decide on how much funding each will need before a total figure is decided.
“We will proceed on the basis of the local authorities assessing the damage, and putting estimates into the Department of Local Government,” said Mr Noonan.
Angry St Mary’s Park residents rounded on both ministers when they visited.
“We’re surrounded by water. We have a property tax and no property,” shouted one resident.
Mr Hayes did not respond when one woman asked him: “Are you still charging us for water? We can sell it back to you now, love, instead of ye charging us. We can sell ye the water.”
Another told Mr Hayes: “We are in a dire situation here, dire. It’s not good enough. Not good enough, minster.”