Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Flood Damage.

3.

asked the Minister for the Environment if his attention has been drawn to the serious flooding which takes place on the national secondary road at Kylemore, Connemara, County Galway, after heavy rainfall; and the plans he has to deal with this problem.

I understand that flooding occurs occasionally on two sections of the N59 near Kylemore Abbey. I have been informed by the local authority that flooding to the west of Kylemore Abbey occurs when there is a sudden rise in the Dawros River and flooding to the east of the abbey occurs when there is a rise in the level of water in Kylemore Lake. In both cases, the road has been raised over recent years but, while this action has reduced the extent of flooding, it has not eliminated the problem. I understand that further raising of the road may not of itself be a solution to the problem.

The question of carrying out further remedial works will be kept under review, having regard to constraints on public expenditure and other work priorities.

4.

asked the Minister for the Environment if he has received a formal request from Waterford County Council for financial aid to repair county roads, severely damaged in the October rainstorms; and, if so, when he will make an announcement as to his intentions in the matter.

10.

asked the Minister for the Environment the steps which are being taken at EC level to provide relief to offset huge losses due to damage to property caused by persistent and severe flooding in the catchment areas of the River Lee and the River Blackwater, County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

54.

asked the Minister for the Environment, arising out of his recent visit to Cork to assess the flood situation, the new initiatives he is proposing to avert future serious flooding in the catchment areas of Rivers Lee and Blackwater, County Cork.

I propose to take Questions Nos. 4, 10 and 54 together. Following the severe weather last month, I asked local authorities in the affected areas to prepare reports on the extent of flood damage which had occurred. I also sought their views on immediate remedial measures which they consider necessary and on the question of works which might usefully be undertaken to prevent a recurrence of flooding. In addition, I asked the local authorities to carry out an investigation into the extent of flood damage to houses, to quantify the remedial work required and to identify householders who, through lack of insurance cover or otherwise, may now be suffering hardship.

Reports relating to damage to public property have now been received from a number of the local authorities concerned, including Cork and Waterford County Councils. I am now considering what further action should be taken in the matter.

Regarding the question of EC funds, the EC has set aside a budget of 3 million ECU, approximately £2.3 million, in 1988 to allow the EC to come to the assistance of people in the Community who are victims of natural catastrophies which are recognised as being of exceptional scale and gravity. Applications for assistance from the Disaster Fund is not appropriate in this case.

The cost of the repair work needed in Waterford specifically for roads is in the region of £440,000 and as the Minister rightly stated in his reply the damage has been inspected. Can the Minister give some indication as to when he will be able to give money to the county council and the amount he may give to the council?

The Deputy's figure is roughly correct in so far as the Waterford County Council submission is concerned. To date seven local authorities have made their reports to me and these are being considered in the Department at present. I cannot say what the final outcome will be until we have considered all the reports. We are awaiting a few more reports from the counties which have indicated that they will send us details on the matters to which the Deputy referred. I will not be able to make a final decision until I know the extent of what we are talking about.

The Waterford county engineer has given the Minister a very comprehensive report of the damage to roads in the country. Because of their extremely restricted financial position, the county council are not in a position to do the work——

Ceist, le do thoil, a Theachta.

——and some of the roads in the county are totally impassable. Would the Minister indicate how soon he will be able to act on the report which has been forwarded to his Department?

I am aware of some of the difficulties the Deputy referred to in so far as roads and bridges are concerned. I think the Deputy would agree that it would be wise in the circumstances that I should have all the reports in from the counties who have indicated they will do so before I do anything. At present I am not in a position to say what money can be made available to relieve the situation.

It is specifically a south-west of Ireland problem.

It is not only a south of Ireland problem. There are other counties in the northern area involved, for example, Monaghan, which had difficulties at the same time.

I am calling Deputy Máirín Quill who has two questions tabled on this subject.

Would the Minister accept that the degree of delay indicated in his reply hardly measures up to any sense of urgency in response to what is a very serious problem? In relation to Question No. 10, the question tabled by me, would the Minister accept that when Hurricane Charlie hit this country a number of years ago application was made successfully to the EC Disaster Fund and that a sum in excess of £110,000 was given to this country for the relief of people who were stricken at that time? Will the Minister explain why he has claimed in his reply that it would be inappropriate for Ireland to make a similar application to that fund at this time?

It would be inappropriate for the simple reason that I am advised that the fund was not set up to deal with the kind of problems we are talking about here. It was set up to deal with natural catastrophies such as earthquakes and disasters of that nature and scale. As I said £2.3 million was provided at that time for the 12 member states and I am advised that it is not available to deal with flooding.

Who advised the Minister?

Deputy Máirín Quill.

That is what happened in Bray in 1986 and in Munster in 1988.

I have called Deputy Quill.

Will the Minister kindly explain to me in my innocence the difference in kind, nature and scale between the damage done by the recent flooding in the catchment area of the Rivers Lee and Blackwater and the damage done at the time of Hurricane Charlie? Why was an application made successfully at that time but is not being contemplated at this time? Does the Minister honestly believe that local authorities have the resources from their own meagre funds to repair and put right the damage which has been done by the recent flooding to roads, bridges and drainage systems in the areas about which I speak?

I agree with the Deputy that local authorities would find it difficult to provide money for the cycle of works referred to in the initial reports I have got from the seven local authorities who have already submitted their reports. I accept that, but the Deputy will understand that when reports of this nature come into the Department the technical staff are at least entitled to have an opportunity of investigating the report to see what has to be done.

I want to bring in Deputy Alan Shatter.

(Interruptions.)

Order, please.

Will the Minister state from what local authorities he has received reports, what sums of money are being sought by each local authority, the names of the two missing local authority reports and the dates he received the reports which have been received by his Department?

Deputy Shatter knows full well that these are specific questions related to particular areas. I am not allowing an extension of the type he envisages.

On a point of order, a Cheann Comhairle——

Deputy Shatter, please resume your seat.

——the Minister said that he has accepted different reports——

That may be so, but the Chair is concerned with the subject matter of these questions and not with the Minister's reply.

Can I ask the Minister what date he received the reports from the local authorities concerned?

Deputy Shatter, I will order you to leave the House if you persist in this disdainful attitude.

On a point of order

No Deputy, I am dealing with disorder from you at the moment. Will the Deputy please resume his seat? I have ruled that I am not allowing an extension of these questions.

On a point of order, a Cheann Comhairle, can I raise some questions directly about Cork and Waterford?

Of course the Deputy can.

It is the Minister who raised the other local authorities.

(Interruptions.)

Can the Minister tell us what date he received the reports relating to Cork and Waterford and how much moneys have been claimed for flood damage in the context of each of those reports?

I would be pleased to give the Deputy the dates on which I received the reports if that information was in my brief but it is not.

Whose fault is that?

The date on which each report was received in the Department is not in my brief but if the Deputy wishes me to furnish that information to him I will be quite happy to do so.

And the amounts claimed.

Deputy Sherlock.

I will answer the questions as put down but if supplementary questions raise matters related but different——

The Chair has put that right.

Those questions arise out of the Minister's reply.

Deputy Shatter, I have ruled on that matter as all my predecessors in this Chair have. Deputy Sherlock.

My supplementary question to the Minister is to ask him if he has yet received a report from Cork County Council. Arising from the Minister's reply to Question No. 10 with regard to the Disaster Fund, how does the EC differentiate between what is and is not an emergency? On October 26 last the Minister stated categorically in the Dáil that, besides the damage being done to bridges, roads and so forth, he would compensate people who suffered losses as a result of damage to their homes, etc.

It depends on one's proximity to Dublin.

I am indicating that I am not going to——

Or County Mayo.

——dwell unduly long on this question.

One was an act of God, the other an act of Charlie.

I propose to proceed to another question shortly.

The answer to the first part of the Deputy's question is yes, Cork has submitted a claim. So far as I am concerned, the matter of the flooding to which he has referred will not be permanently dealt with until such time as control of the catchment areas of the Rivers Lee and Blackwater is undertaken by way of some form of serious drainage scheme.

Deputy Quill must be very brief. I want to deal with other questions.

(Interruptions.)

Please, Deputy Quill without interruptions.

Would the Minister accept that an application for £300,000 has already been made by Cork Corporation in respect of damage done in that local authority area? Could he tell us the purpose of his flying visit to Cork, if it was not to make his own assessment of damage done in that area due to that flooding? Or was the purpose of his visit——

Deputy, please, I asked for brevity.

——just like the Queen visiting the colonies?

The £300,000 to which the Deputy refers is the subject matter of another question. I suggest that she waits until later.

Let us have the next question, Question No. 5.

Has the Minister a figure for Cork Corporation?

Please, Deputy Deasy must desist. I call Question No. 5.