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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 8 Dec 2015

Vol. 899 No. 3

Topical Issue Debate

Flood Relief Schemes

I thank the Ceann Comhairle for the opportunity to speak on this matter. Bandon town was devastated last Saturday night by a serious flood for the eighth time in the past 40 years. While much of the conversation in its aftermath has been on the flood relief scheme and the need to prioritise it, my priority right now is to support the businesses that have been affected, particularly those that have been hit for the second time in six years and which have been wiped out.

I commend the OPW on the work it has done on making progress on a scheme for Bandon town. There has been more progress on the scheme in Bandon in the past four years than in the previous 44 but the harsh reality is that, for the next two and a half years, Bandon town will be vulnerable to flooding. The scheme will start within six months but it will take two years to complete. It will not be until the scheme is completed that the town will finally have protection from the dreadful, awful nightmare that is flooding. In the meantime, society needs to do everything in its power to ensure it protects the businesses in the centre of the town.

The business of Mr. Frank O'Leary of O'Leary & Daughters, across from my constituency office in the town of Bandon, has been in operation for 97 years. It was completely devastated by the flood of 2009 and devastated again last Saturday night and Sunday morning. The torrential waters ruined Mr. O'Leary's drapery business for a second time and he has no insurance. It is incumbent on us as a society to address this issue. It is a matter for the Department of Social Protection because I am seeking social protection for the businesses that have been paying rates for 97 years and that have been the lifeblood of our community by giving employment and supporting everything that moved in the town. It is now time to address this. If it happened abroad, we would all be rushing ahead of ourselves to send money to the affected region as part of a humanitarian crisis response. It is time we helped our own. I very much welcome the €5 million announced by the Cabinet today and look forward to its immediate distribution to the businesses in Bandon town.

The flooding of homes and businesses after the severe rainfall as a result of Storm Desmond has been absolutely devastating. Since the last serious floods, in 2009, there have been some remedial works. These are very welcome. More have been postponed pending the completion of consultants' reports and the catchment flood risk assessment and management, CFRAM, studies. As a result, families and businesses have been left without flood insurance. In the past six years, we have seen two floods of a kind that tend to occur but once in 100 years. Sadly, we are by no means out of the woods.

There has been a delay in the distribution of pumps and sandbags to flood-prone communities due to delays by the national co-ordination committee in providing appropriate warnings to the local authorities. What we now need is immediate financial support for the victims. Families need a fund that is easily accessible. Staff from the Department of Social Protection should be deployed to assist with completing the forms. The families need funding immediately to cover the costs associated with being out of their homes. Furthermore, provision needs to be made for relocation and for the refurbishment of homes. Individuals in marooned communities who need to be relocated as we speak, particularly in the Shannon Callows, need to be provided with alternative accommodation, and the associated costs need to be met.

Businesses, particularly businesses with no flood insurance, need to be compensated for the loss of income and stock and for the staff wages that must be paid at the end of this week. Provision needs to be made for the extension of bank loans until compensation kicks in for landlords, and overdraft and term facilities must be made available to businesses in respect of their stock. Funding needs to be made available for refurbishment costs, and there needs to be rates relief.

Fodder has been destroyed on farms, and funding needs to be put in place to replace it. Where stock have been taken out of sheds, bed-and-breakfast costs need to be covered.

I thank the Ceann Comhairle for the opportunity to raise this matter. On Saturday evening, water levels were rising in Crossmolina and other areas across Mayo to a level very near tall people's shoulders. Such is the extent of the damage. It was not six or nine years ago but three weeks ago when the last flood was experienced in Crossmolina. I have discussed this with the Minister in the interim. We are all awaiting major capital projects but simple jobs such as cleaning rivers and lifting debris from them are not being done. It seems the OPW attaches more importance to pearl mussels, or other forms of marine life and animals, than to people. As long as that is happening, the Department of Social Protection will bear the brunt of trying to compensate and come up with a scheme. As long as the OPW continues to forget the small things while it focuses on the big things, this will happen.

Businesses are uninsured because they cannot obtain insurance, not because they are irresponsible. I refer in particular to businesses that have rented premises or public houses. These businesses are finding it impossible to obtain insurance. Retail businesses that had peak stock in the first weekend in December saw that stock completely destroyed. Stock, including food, valued at hundreds of thousands of euro had to be destroyed on Sunday and yesterday because of the damage.

I endorse what Deputy Naughten said. Not enough preparation work was done. Can the Minister for Social Protection outline how the new scheme will work? The Taoiseach said the community welfare officers will be going from house to house in the affected areas in respect of the humanitarian assistance scheme. It is a very difficult and complicated scheme. Can we ensure that it works as easily and quickly as possible? The notion of looking for receipts and records with a view to having vouched expenses is nonsensical where somebody's house has been washed away in front of them. We will have to be incredibly flexible about this. It is time that the OPW stood up for the people in the country as much as for pearl mussels and various other creatures at the bottom of our rivers.

I thank the Ceann Comhairle for allowing me to raise this matter today. All our thoughts are with those connected to the many homes and businesses that have suffered owing to serious flooding over the past weekend. It was a very traumatic time for many people. Unfortunately, many suffered two floods within a few weeks. I commend those who worked so hard over the weekend. Donegal County Council, the fire service, the Army, ESB and members of the local community volunteered to help the businesses and homes affected in my county and they did their best to prevent the flooding that was taking place. Across Donegal, there was very severe flooding. In some cases, it was unlike any seen in many years. Towns such as Lifford, Ballindrait, Castlefinn, Kilmacrennan, Glenties and Pettigo all suffered from very serious flooding, as did many other towns and villages to a greater or lesser extent. I hope the Minister for Social Protection will be able to assure the public today that we will see a compensation scheme that will help those people who are in tremendous distress financially and in terms of facing the task of trying to remedy the problem.

Compensation must be accessible and appropriate to the type of damage experienced, and prevention measures must be expedited to ensure there is no repeat of the flooding. Clearly, we cannot prevent rain from falling from the sky, but we must do everything in our power to ensure lessons are learned from previous flooding patterns and introduce appropriate flood defences to prevent flooding where this is possible, as is often the case. We must ensure we are prepared for similar events in the future by learning lessons from what occurred in recent weeks in order that people do not fear a repeat of this experience.

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this discussion, unfortunate as it is. I speak on behalf of people in Athlone, business owners, residents and farmers, who find themselves in the same precarious position in which they found themselves in 2009. I acknowledge the great work Westmeath County Council has done in rapidly activating an emergency response, providing sandbags and industrial pumps, assisting the elderly and taking all possible preventative measures. Last night, Councillor Aengus O'Rourke and I visited Deer Park Road and Parnell Square, where we saw at first hand the anxiety and worry of residents. Thanks to the topography of the land around Athlone, the worst flooding is still to come as flood waters make their way down the River Shannon. People in the area face a difficult few days as they worry about what lies in store. It is predicted that up to 50 or 60 houses will be flooded by Saturday, not only in the areas to which I referred, but along the River Shannon in Carrick-on-Shannon, Conbonny and Golden Island.

What supports will the Department provide for people who do not have insurance and will have to move out of homes that are destroyed by flooding? How quickly will people be able to access these supports? As Deputy Calleary stated, the system must not be excessively bureaucratic, as people will otherwise be afraid to apply for the supports they need.

This is a case of déjà vu, because similar floods occurred in 2009. As recently as several weeks ago, I asked the Minister of State, Deputy Simon Harris, what progress had been made on the provision of flood relief measures in Athlone. The response from the Department referred to the CFRAM report. Six years after the publication of that report, no progress has been made on the installation of preventative measures to ensure there is no repeat of the flooding of 2009. We must support those affected here and now and discuss preventative measures at a later date.

I commiserate with all the individuals and families affected by the very difficult weather conditions. I visited Counties Kerry and Cork on Thursday and Friday. Anyone looking at the rivers in the area will have understood the amount of rain that has fallen in a short period and the difficulty this has presented.

The Department of Social Protection closely monitors weather forecasts and activated its humanitarian assistance scheme some weeks ago. We also had episodes of flooding in Counties Clare and Waterford, where we had to render assistance to a small number of families. Since the weekend, in response to flooding in Tralee, County Kerry, we placed in temporary accommodation a number of families who are tenants of the local authority and had to leave their homes. We also issued humanitarian assistance to families and application forms for such assistance. As the days pass, we expect more families to make contact with our services. We are working closely with the local authorities and I commend all the services that have responded to the floods, including staff who have been working heroically in very difficult conditions to protect people, properties and businesses.

The community welfare service and humanitarian assistance scheme have been activated and the former is open and available for contact. If Deputies are aware of people who are in a difficult position and do not know about the service, I would be grateful if they could pass on the relevant information to enable these individuals to make contact with the community welfare service. Staff are assessing and meeting the demand for assistance by members of the public as needs arise and, where necessary, visiting the homes of persons affected. This is occurring in the Athlone area, where departmental officials are in constant contact with Westmeath County Council, and they will provide whatever supports are required in Athlone and all other counties.

We are also conscious that, as a number of previous speakers noted, people have mounted a watch to ascertain when runoff water flowing through the River Shannon and other rivers may flood homes.

The Department is experienced in providing emergency humanitarian assistance. I assure the House that this is not a bureaucratic or difficult process. We have dealt with very difficult circumstances, including in King John's Island, Limerick, where staff went from door to door and established emergency premises. We will do this again where required and remain as close as possible to those who have been affected by flooding.

The Department has an allocation of €10 million to expend on emergency assistance. It can therefore meet all the assistance requirements as they arise. The Department generally adopts a three-stage approach. The first stage involves providing emergency income support payments for food, clothing and personal items in the immediate aftermath of the event. A relatively small amount of financial assistance is generally provided, with payments ranging from €100 to €500 depending on family size. The second stage generally involves the replacement of white goods, basic furniture items and other essential household items. It is not until flood water recedes somewhat that the Department is able to establish the full extent of damage to homes and what level of intervention will be required to address it. Deputies with experience of flooding will know what I am talking about. The final stage is to identify what longer-term financial support or works are required. It could take several months before this stage commences because flooded homes must first dry out and expert advice and assistance may be required.

Deputy Calleary referred to a case in which a bridge may have to be replaced, which is a matter for structural engineers and other experts. This is also the case with houses, and we have dealt with similar cases in conjunction with the Office of Public Works and local authorities. No limit is applied to the level of assistance provided under the scheme, which will depend on the needs of the individual household.

I refer specifically to the new departure of compensating businesses, and I welcome the decision the Cabinet took in that regard today. While we can discuss the delivery of schemes and so forth, it should also be placed on record that even if the flood relief scheme for Bandon had commenced six months ago, the town would still have been flooded last Saturday night. It will take another two and a half years to complete the scheme. In the meantime, we have a responsibility to protect and look after those who are affected by flooding. For this reason, I highlight and strongly welcome today's development, which means that, for the first time in the history of the State, the Government has acknowledged its duty and responsibility to protect the business community as well as home owners. The €10 million fund to which the Tánaiste referred was already in place.

Businesses affected by flooding will go to the wall this side of Christmas because their hopes of receiving a long-awaited boost over Christmas have been destroyed.

They are trying to get back on their feet. Thankfully, every business is back open in the town of Bandon but we need to ensure the funding is made available. It must not be tied up in bureaucracy, knots, form-filling and all the associated difficulties. The money should get speedily and efficiently to where it is needed most.

I thank the Tánaiste for her response. We have had severe flooding in County Roscommon as well. In places like Athleague, Roscommon and Shannon Callows there are homes that will be flooded or that have already been flooded. I have two specific questions. Will provision be made for relocation down the road, as has been the case in the past? The Tánaiste said the Government is considering or will introduce a fund for businesses. What are business owners going to tell the bank this Friday when they have to make repayments? What information do they need to satisfy whatever criteria will be laid down? They need answers on the matter now. I am meeting representatives of some of those businesses this evening and they want to know. They want to start cleaning up their premises. However, if they do not know the criteria and conditions, they have to leave it there. Do they leave it until the coming weeks when a decision is made? I need to know what to tell them this evening and what they should tell the banks this Friday.

Like previous speakers I believe we need to see information about the scheme for businesses. For most businesses this four-week period pays for the next three months. This is the time of year when they get the chance to get back in shape after some difficult trading conditions. They are not going to be able to do that now. We need to give some information.

The Tánaiste referred to staff on the ground in Athlone and Tralee. Can we put staff on the ground in Crossmolina? There is no social welfare office there as such, but it would be helpful if staff were available there in the coming days.

I realise farming is not an area of responsibility for the Tánaiste. However, a great deal of fodder and winter stock has been washed away and a great deal of land is under several feet of water. We need to put in place a package with rules and regulations for farmers as well. Unfortunately, the damage that has been done and that will be done is extraordinary. In Ballina we are living from tide to tide this week. We need information on all these packages in order that the matter is out of the way within the coming days.

I thank the Tánaiste her for her reply. The crucial point now is that those affected by the flooding can see how to access the compensation fund. It must be made easy for them to do so and they should be assisted as much as possible. The already complicated situation facing them should not be made more difficult by the process of engaging with local services.

It is also crucial that the decision on access to a fund by businesses is made promptly. This should not be allowed to drag. They deserve to know that this decision will be made rather than being left in limbo.

The Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works, Deputy Harris, is beside the Tánaiste. It is crucial to ensure any remaining CFRAM reports are expedited in key areas. Some weeks ago I raised the issue of the CFRAM reports for the Letterkenny, Raphoe and Ramelton areas, all of which were flooded previously. The reports are required to make recommendations on the possible remediation works.

Two councillors, Councillor Paddy McGowan and Councillor Jack Crawford, have raised the matter of responsibility for the River Finn in County Donegal. Ballybofey and Stranorlar experienced very bad flooding, as did many towns along the River Finn. There is confusion over who exactly is responsible for maintaining the River Finn and carrying out works on the river. I call on the Minister of State and the OPW to look into this matter to bring clarity. There should be a lead agency to take responsibility for addressing and putting in place proposals for remediation.

Farming is a business to many people. Will the farmers who have suffered savage losses in recent days be accommodated? Many people are going to have to relocate. Do we have confidence that we will have homes for them to relocate to, given the serious housing shortage at present? Can we guarantee the families who have to relocate that they are going to have a home for Christmas? Friday two weeks from now will be Christmas Day. Some people are going to have to move out over Christmas. Can we guarantee the position for them?

I was meeting people quietly last night. People were asking questions about supports. As far as they were aware, no community welfare officer was going from house to house yesterday. Perhaps it started today, but I am unsure. Anyway, we need to ensure that applications are taken now and processed without delay.

There is a necessity for new schemes. We are waiting on a report that is going to confirm what we already know, in other words, where there are serious difficulties with flooding. We need to ensure that action is taken now for the sake of the people who have gone through this terrible ordeal in 2009 and who are going through a terrible ordeal now. It seems the corncrake is dictating what is happening at a time when houses are being flooded. We need to prioritise and ensure that we do not have a situation where €14.5 million allocated for flood relief measures remains unspent at a time when houses are going underwater.

Reference was made to small businesses and the development of a €5 million fund to assist them in the run-up to Christmas, when many businesses would have been anticipating an active and successful Christmas season. That fund will be administered on behalf of the Government through the Irish Red Cross. It will allow for maximum flexibility of the type described by a number of Deputies. Like the humanitarian assistance scheme of the Department of Social Protection, it is highly flexible. We have sorted out many issues in respect of housing and locating homes if people have to be relocated. The idea is that they are as close as possible to where they were but out of flood danger.

Obviously, there are issues with places where, unfortunately, in the past, some homes were built on floodplains. When I became Minister I worked to sort out some of the issues arising from the terrible things that happened during the 2009 floods and rains. Ultimately, we were able to assist almost all of the families affected. Nonetheless, it is an incredibly difficult thing for a family. I think I met most of the people affected. I have been in most of the flood locations throughout the country.

Department of Social Protection officials, in particular those from the community welfare service, are on standby and have been on standby with no particular public fanfare. We have already been addressing issues that arose in recent times in Waterford and Clare. Over the weekend our officials were on the ground in Tralee sorting out and relocating families as well setting up humanitarian assistance for families.

I understand that in Athlone and further up the Shannon the people affected are incredibly apprehensive, as are people further down the river in Limerick. All these people have experienced dreadful flooding before. We are on standby to address this. We work through the local agencies. We act on any advice or information that we receive from other organisations, including the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, immediately. We have made the process as simple as possible.

Deputies should bear in mind that in a flood it may not be possible to identify instantly everything that arises, either in respect of a business or a family home. Therefore, in the first stage, we concentrate on emergency payments. In the second stage we concentrate on essentials, such as white goods, fridges and so on, which may have been destroyed. In the third stage when we have expert assessment we concentrate on what needs to be rebuilt. Obviously, if people have private insurance, generally speaking, they look after themselves. I am mindful of the fact that because of the history of flooding many people do not have insurance. That is where the flood schemes and humanitarian relief scheme come into their own.

Flood Prevention Measures

The second Topical Issue is in the name of 12 Deputies, including Deputies McCarthy, Pringle, Breen, Cannon, Tom Fleming, Harrington, Keaveney, Kitt, Jonathan O'Brien, Ó Cuív, Creighton and Stanley. Each Deputy has two minutes.

At the weekend Bandon and, to a lesser extent, many other towns throughout the country suffered enormous flooding. There is an element of having been there and done that. This happened in Bandon in 2009 when there was great devastation. Since that flood we had the usual political responses one would expect. As well-meaning as they may have been at the time, solutions did not come in time to prevent the current deluge.

There are a number of issues. One is the legal action that was threatened in the case of Bandon, a point made by the Minister of State during the week. The second is the configuration of the schemes. As Deputy Daly quite rightly pointed out, that does not matter at this stage because if schemes start in the new year, which it is to be hoped they will, they will still take two years to complete. One is left wondering what will happen in the meantime. We need to consider the configuration of the schemes that have allowed for incessant delays not just in Bandon, but also in Skibbereen. Another issue in Bandon is the fact that the drainage scheme came to an abrupt halt. In the meantime, a couple of issues can be examined, namely, what Cork County Council and Irish Water can do in terms of resources and measures that can be put in place to alleviate the consequences of flooding until the new schemes are up and running.

I welcome some other measures. The response of the emergency services has been outstanding. The response from the Government is encouraging. We are always trying to beat the clock in regard to these issues. We need to consider what we can do to assist devastated communities in light of what has happened, apart from the schemes announced by the Government, the Minister of State's Department and the Department of Social Protection. We also need to consider giving businesses a break in terms of rates between now and when towns are sufficiently able to recover economically from the devastation caused.

I thank the Ceann Comhairle for taking this issue today. It is a sign of the extent of the damage throughout the country when one sees that many Deputies submitted a Topical Issue matter on this subject today.

I pay tribute to the members of the emergency services and staff of Donegal County Council who worked tirelessly over the weekend to help residents and citizens across the county. I also pay tribute to the many members of the public who came out to try to save property and help people who were devastated by the flooding.

A number of rivers across Donegal were impacted this weekend. The River Eske in Donegal town was flooded for the second time in three weeks. Many residents who had started work to repair damage from previous floods were devastated when they were flooded again this week. It is soul destroying for these people to have to go through that on a second occasion in a matter of weeks. The River Finn flows through Ballybofey, Stranorlar, Castlefinn and Lifford. Some areas in Lifford, which never flooded before, were affected. While there was a large amount of rainfall over the over a 24-hour period, we need to take action to ensure measures can be taken very quickly to try to alleviate the problems.

Glenties and Ardara on the River Owenea were affected, as well as Pettigo which has been affected on a number of occasions in recent weeks. It is a major problem. While we are looking for a response in terms of long-term measures, the Minister of State also needs to provide a short-term response, whereby Donegal County Council or the Office of Public Works can immediately carry out emergency measures to try to alleviate some of the problems. They may not be 100% successful, but they may help in the short term while long-term funding is being put in place. That is what I would like to hear from the Minister of State today.

Like other counties, County Clare suffered from extensive flooding on Saturday as a result of Storm Desmond which caused widespread road closures in the county and submerged thousands of acres under water. Houses were cut off and a number of houses were evacuated. Businesses were also affected.

It is anticipated that in the coming days more houses, property and roads could be damaged along the lower banks of the River Shannon in the Springfield area of Clonlara in south-east Clare as the ESB is set to increase the release of water from the Parteen Weir. I spoke to residents and householders affected by flooding and one issue arises constantly, namely, the maintenance and cleaning of our smaller rivers. Many have not been maintained or dredged for more than 20 years. Over time the build-up of silt and falling trees is holding back the water and increasing the risk of localised flooding.

I ask the Minister of State, the OPW and local authorities to carry out an assessment of rivers in my county, including rivers such as Fergus, O'Garney and Doonbeg, and to introduce a programme of river dredging and maintenance through the provision of a multi-annual funding programme. It could solve some of the problems and prevent further flooding.

I commend the OPW on the flood relief work it has done in Ennis, where two areas have been completed and, thankfully, we did not have the same type of flooding we had in 2009. However, problems remain on the Limerick Road side. St. Flannan's College was closed over the weekend. Many residents in the area were very worried in case they experienced the type of flooding they did in 2009.

I refer to the Ennis south flood relief project. I understand some technical issues need to be ironed out, and I ask the Minister of State to finalise the outstanding issues in order that the scheme can commence in the new year. There are other areas of concern throughout the county, but I wanted to raise two or three issues today.

All of us have raised this issue because we are very much aware of the severe anguish and stress suffered by families in our constituencies over the past 72 hours. In Galway East and, in particular, south Galway, that anguish and distress was exacerbated by the fact that people knew what was coming and the torture they would face. They saw floodwaters and river levels rising in the immediate vicinity of their homes. This happened in 1995, 2009, 2014 and again this year. They knew their houses would be inundated with water. There was nothing they could do and they prepared to leave their houses.

They were particularly distressed by the fact that, in their eyes, they have seen nothing but inaction on this issue over decades. If one searched for the term "Dunkellin drainage" in the Official Report of the House, one would see debates on it going back to the 1930s and 1940s because the issue has been ongoing for so long. I ask for that distress be brought to an end. The Minister of State and his predecessor, Mr. Brian Hayes, MEP, have worked very hard on the current flood relief project. I ask that we confirm once and for all that a budget is in place. I understand there is one and to know its amount would be very helpful.

I also ask that we expedite as quickly as possible the delivery of the Dunkellin flood relief project. I also ask that the Minister of State exert as much influence as he possibly can on An Bord Pleanála to make a planning decision immediately on the Dunkellin flood relief project. The project planning application has been with it since October 2014. I find it very difficult to understand how it has taken more than a year for it to make a decision on this matter. Once the decision is made - one hopes it will be a positive decision - I hope we can expedite this project and bring it to fruition as quickly as possible.

County Kerry bore the brunt of Storm Desmond, with gusts up to 93 km/h recorded in Valentia Observatory. Up to 77 mm of rain were recorded in Tralee. These conditions were prevalent throughout the county. I pay tribute to Kerry County Council's emergency services, the fire services, the Civil Defence, all the road crew staff and the Irish Red Cross.

An elderly couple had to be evacuated from Foiladown in the parish of Glenflesk on the Flesk river, an area which has been subject to flooding down through the years. It is a blackspot. We were very fortunate to have the inland inshore rescue group from Killarney and the Kerry mountain rescue team come to the aid of an elderly couple who were in a devastating position. They were brought out safely and I thank everybody concerned for their assistance. A large amount of voluntary work took place. Hundreds of people carried out tremendous work over long hours.

I do not have to state the amount of damage that has been caused by fallen trees, and a vast amount of damage has been done to road structures. A bridge on a minor road near Ballydesmond on the Kerry side of the Cork border was swept away. The River Feale near Listowel is still rising. We cannot forget that rain is forecast for the coming week. Army crews went out with the HSE and helped the people in a nursing home on the Castlemaine road outside Tralee. People in Ballymullen, Caherwisheen, the Dingle road and Ballard in Tralee are in a precarious position. Given the circumstances, very good assistance was given.

I thank the Ceann Comhairle's office for selecting this issue. I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Harris, and I thank him with regard to events over the weekend. One of his officials was in west Cork in the late hours of Saturday and the early hours of Sunday morning monitoring the situation, which was very welcome. The Minister of State is here representing the Minister, Deputy Howlin. Even though some of the schemes we have in west Cork are at a very late stage in terms of confirmation, they will begin, I hope, in the coming months. There have been some pitfalls that should be dealt with for communities that have been hard hit recently, particularly those in Bandon and Skibbereen in west Cork.

The development of a flood relief scheme involves prioritisation, selection, public consultation, design, another public consultation, an environmental impact statement, procurement, independent evaluation of the first environmental statement, confirmation and the appointment of a contractor, and then the project begins and takes another two years. Every single community throughout the country, and not just Bandon and Skibbereen, has a feeling of huge exasperation with the entire process of delivering flood relief schemes, which we understand are very complex. I am not standing here today to say that any of these stages are not necessary, because we have signed up to conventions such as the Aarhus Convention, which provides for public consultation, and we cannot steamroll over public objections where they are appropriate, but I often get the feeling that we are gilding the lily on this one in terms of procuring schemes. There are many consecutive stages, whereby one cannot start until the other has finished. I ask the Minister of State to ask the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform to allow concurrence in the stages to minimise the delays in delivering these schemes. The information for any community beginning the process is that it will take five years from the minute it is confirmed before construction will even begin.

Like previous speakers, I acknowledge the dedication, commitment and, above all, the actions of the emergency services over the course of the weekend. I acknowledge the fact that the Minister of State got an opportunity to send his people to Cork, so he had some notice. He got there within 24 hours. We left here last Wednesday, and some left on Thursday, knowing Storm Desmond was on its way. I find it appalling that we had sufficient notice of the degree and scale of the storm but did not have a greater reaction and response on the ground.

In November, I asked the Minister of State two parliamentary questions about Peterswell, a village which is not a million miles away from Deputy Cannon's area. It was with regard to small remedial work and a proposal from Galway County Council which asked the OPW to take some responsibility at little cost. This proposal was based on local knowledge and contribution from the community along with Galway County Council. Will the Minister of State review these parliamentary questions, because today the village is under water? We could have made an intervention at some point prior to this at little cost, which could have saved significant amounts of money. I am conscious of the fact that we spoke in some detail about the role of the Department of Social Protection, but we should be preventing these situations. In his response, will the Minister of State give me some idea of the immediate, medium and long-term strategies in respect of dealing with these matters?

I welcome the Minister of State and I also welcome this opportunity to contribute. I listened to "It says in the Papers" on RTE radio this morning, during which reference was made to a photograph that appeared in a number of newspapers of Army personnel and local people trying to hold back rapidly rising waters in Ballinasloe in County Galway. Great credit is due to the Army personnel, the local people and the emergency services. There was also a quote from a senior local authority engineer, who stated that things might get worse before they get better. If there is information on this it should be put out there because, as my colleagues have said, there was an early warning weather forecast before the heavy rain of the weekend and we should let people know the situation if the information is there.

It is very important that sandbags are provided as a first step. They were available from certain places in Galway, such as the Loughrea depot, and this is important. I visited a number of premises in recent days and it was obvious that it is very difficult to remove water. This means it is important to put preventative measures in place. It is particularly sad when one notices that Ballinasloe also has a precautionary boil water notice because of untreated water getting into the plant when the River Suck began to rise at the weekend. More than 10,300 customers in the Ballinasloe area were affected, as were residents served by the Kiltormer and Clontuskert group water schemes. I hope this can be resolved. Will the Minister of State explain whether it is true that there was an underspend? A figure of €14.5 million was mentioned as an underspend in 2015.

I have been campaigning for approximately 40 years to deal with flood relief on the Dunkellin river. There have been many false dawns and much nonsense has been spoken over the past 40 years, but will the Minister of State deal with the Dunkellin scheme, which has been with An Bord Pleanála since October 2014, and get a decision, hopefully favourable, on it? It would mean a lot of progress for the people of south Galway, and the village of Craughwell would not be cut off as it is at present. It is on the R446 Dublin Road between Loughrea and Oranmore.

I want to pick up on the points made by Deputies Harrington and McCarthy, particularly with regard to Bandon and Skibbereen. It is a very long process and perhaps we can look to see whether it can be sped up, but every stage of the process is important in its own right and we should not just drop stages to try to speed up any particular scheme. What we do need to look at, particularly in areas such as Bandon, whose flood relief scheme was unfortunately held up for legal reasons, is what other measures can be taken while there is a significant delay in the implementation of a flood relief scheme. I have no doubt that if we had not had those legal delays in Bandon it would not have been flooded. Nobody can calculate these delays, because everyone has the right to object, but we need to look at factors that could mitigate flooding in areas where we are waiting. For instance, in Blackpool, with which the Minister of State is very familiar, a flood relief scheme is being put in place because the village has been flooded on numerous occasions. Through the Minister of State's office, and in conjunction and in partnership with Cork City Council, we were able to carry out some remedial works which, although the works were minor and it was not a finished flood relief scheme, was enough to prevent the village from flooding again. This is what we need to look at in areas such as Bandon, where we have huge delays, and Skibbereen, where we are hoping the flood relief schemes will be completed within two years, to see what can be done in terms of remedial works in the short term.

We must all have great understanding for those who were affected at the weekend. In these cases, the biggest problems are the human tragedies as businesses or homes are destroyed. We can all live with closed roads.

There was nothing anybody could have done about the amount of rain that fell in recent days, but there are things we can do to ensure a better response when flooding occurs and to reduce the likelihood of flooding in the first place by ensuring the countryside can handle more water.

In the short time available to me, I will focus on two or three issues. First, there has been a policy in recent years not to clean drains on farms or clear small rivers. The Office of Public Works, which used to do a lot of drainage work of this type, has considerably reduced its efforts in that area. Blocked swallow holes, for example, present a major challenge. We need a comprehensive examination of how we can get more water off as it falls. What is happening at the moment is that water is holding, even where there is only moderate rain. This means that when a big storm comes, large volumes of rainfall are coming in on top of an already sodden countryside. We must review farm drainage policies and small rivers policy. There may be a need to co-ordinate the work of local authorities and the OPW to ensure every river is covered. As I said, swallow holes are not letting water through because there is plastic or a mattress or something else stuck in them. There is a role, too, for the National Parks and Wildlife Service in determining how we balance the need to keep the country dry with the ecological requirements coming from Europe.

That leads me to a very important issue, which is that we must accept that it takes longer than it used to do to get any measure through planning. Therefore, we need to put more things into planning if we are to ensure progress. It is these planning delays which account for the underspends in Departments that have been a consistent feature in recent years. If we do not put enough on the conveyor belt at the beginning, we will not get enough off at the end. If we accept it will take five or six years for a project to go through planning, then we need to put more into planning to ensure there is something coming out the other end.

I conclude by noting that the information given out to the public on blocked and closed roads has been very haphazard. We need to have national protocols in respect of diversions and closed roads so that people know which routes are blocked and what the alternatives are. I had to go down two or three routes at the weekend before I found one that was passable.

I thank the Minister of State for taking this Topical Issue matter. Flood relief works for the River Dodder were committed to by the Minister of State's predecessor in 2012. We fought very hard in very challenging economic circumstances to secure funding for a very extensive works programme after the huge flooding experienced by residents along the banks of the river. At the time, a schedule of approximately two years was set out for those works, which means they should have been almost complete by now. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Instead, a new schedule of implementation for the works programme was circulated recently, indicating the Dodder project will not be completed until 2017. The residents in question are living in absolute fear. We in Dublin were very lucky not to experience the deluge of rain seen in other parts of the country over the weekend. Had we experienced it, I have no doubt that several of these homes close to the Dodder would have been flooded again. The people living there are at permanent and constant risk. They are enormously disappointed at the lack of action and have a real sense of having been let down by the slow pace of the works. They are living in fear of high tides and heavy rains and of their homes being obliterated again. Many of them had to move out for months on the last occasion in order to accommodate remedial works on their properties.

An issue on which the Minister of State's predecessor made no progress is that of access to flood insurance for persons whose homes have been flooded. None of the residents to whom I referred can acquire insurance, notwithstanding the fact that some of the works have been completed. The so-called comfort letters being provided by Irish Water and Dublin City Council are not worth the paper on which they are written. The Minister of State's predecessor talked tough and promised to take on the insurance industry on this matter but nothing was achieved. I hope the Minister of State has a plan to achieve progress. People cannot live in homes that are repeatedly flooded in a situation in which the OPW will not act promptly and they are unable to access flood insurance.

I am grateful for the opportunity to raise the flooding that occurred in County Laois at the weekend, including on Botley Lane in Portarlington, in the Crossneen area of Graiguecullen and on the Manor Road in Mountmellick. The area that is worst affected is Clonterry in Mountmellick, which was flooded by the River Barrow. Residents living on Clonterry Lane are trapped, with the roadway flooding at both ends, and can only get in and out using a high tractor. A van or jeep will not go through the floodwaters, never mind a car. This is causing great problems for residents trying to get to school, work and medical appointments. I spoke to a hospital worker resident this morning who was struggling to get to work.

This is an area, located on the banks of the Barrow river, that floods every year but for which there is a fairly simple solution. There is a short section of roadway close to the Barrow bridge that needs to be raised by at least a metre, and strengthened. I spoke to the local county engineer about it this week and was told that this measure, together with some drainage works, would address the issue. The problem is that Laois County Council does not have the funding to do what is needed. It has no flood relief budget but only a very thin roads budget to cover large areas of the county and the huge lengths of public roads that have to be tarred. Indeed, the council is not even able to keep up with the demand in that regard, let alone provide additional funding. We are looking at funding in the region of €40,000 to put this right. It does not require a long study to figure out what needs to be done. The solution is there; the engineers have looked at it, and what is required, as I said, is to raise a short section of road, some 75m to 80m long. That would allow residents to travel out to the Portarlington Road and get to work, get their children to school, and attend hospital and other appointments. They can put up with not being able to go the other way, even though some of them will have a longer journey. It is better than not being able to get out of the area at all. Most colleagues have emphasised the role of the OPW. In this case, it is Laois County Council which needs to step up, but it will require some €40,000 of emergency funding to do so.

I thank Deputies for their contributions and for allowing me the opportunity to address the House regarding the severe weather which affected the country over last weekend and well into this week. I pledge my willingness to work with Members on all sides of the House to address the many challenges facing communities right across the country. I take this opportunity, too, to express my heartfelt sympathy for all those householders and businesses affected by the flooding. I assure them the Government will do everything it can to assist in getting their properties and lives back to normal as soon as possible. Storm Desmond, which affected the whole country but particularly the western seaboard and the River Shannon, was a severe weather event dominated by record high-intensity, short-duration rainfall together with storm-force gales, with the greatest impact experienced along the western seaboard from Donegal to Cork. Indeed, parts of the country had the equivalent of one month's rain within a 24-hour period. Local authorities, the Defence Forces and all other relevant parties are clued in to the situation. Mr. Seán Hogan, the excellent senior official who chairs the national emergency co-ordination committee, is keeping local authorities very much aware of the current weather situation.

The short-term impact of this extreme rainfall was predominantly fluvial flooding of roads, transport networks and hard surfaces in urban and paved areas.

As the road drainage and urban drainage systems became overwhelmed, the flooding extended to a fluvial event and affected properties in multiple urban centres of the north west, west and south, including Ballybofey, Sligo, Crossmolina, Craughwell, Ballinasloe, Bandon, Skibbereen, Kenmare, and Tralee. The national co-ordination group for severe weather, which is chaired by the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, has been meeting almost daily since last Friday, initially to assess the forecast and the associated risks and later to deal with the aftermath of the storm. All local crisis management arrangements through local authorities were put in place last Thursday. Every county has a severe weather protocol, which it was instructed to activate at that stage, and the full services of the Civil Defence and fire services as well as local authority staff were deployed over the weekend. I believe there were 7,000 front-line staff on call and on duty throughout the weekend. I take this opportunity to extend my appreciation to all the emergency responders and volunteers in local communities who worked tirelessly over the weekend. I understand 97 members of the Civil Defence were out in Donegal alone and 9,000 sandbags were filled in Deputy Calleary's constituency of Mayo. Much of this was done by volunteers and I commend their efforts to deal with a very difficult situation.

I welcome a number of decisions taken by the Government today, including the humanitarian assistance scheme, the €5 million that will be given to the Red Cross and which needs to be administered as quickly as possible. The Minister for Defence, and Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Coveney, will provide clarity on that and on measures that have been put in place to support our farming community. I assure the House that the Government is absolutely and fully aware of the problems of flooding and prioritises the need to find effective and workable solutions to the problem on a national basis. In this regard, the Government is starting the final part of its proactive planning programme to develop feasible flood risk management solutions for those 300 areas across the country at most significant risk from flooding.

Through the catchment flood risk assessment and management, CFRAM, programme, the Office of Public Works, OPW, has completed extensive and systematic hydraulic modelling and hydrological examination for each of these 300 areas, including 90 coastal locations. To date, the CFRAM programme, which is being implemented with the co­operation of progress and steering groups involving local authorities, has surveyed and modelled 6,700km of watercourse. It has produced approximately 40,000 individual flood maps, including those required by the EU floods directive. It has also held extensive public consultations, inviting comments and meeting local representatives and local communities to explain the CFRAM programme, as well as exhibiting and proactively discussing draft flood maps to gain any additional local insight and knowledge to inform their development.

The OPW, informed by the draft maps, is currently and actively engaging with local communities towards developing feasible options for both structural solutions, such as flood defence schemes, and non-structural solutions to address the known fluvial and tidal risks. This is not just another report; this is a process of introducing proactive schemes and finding solutions, where possible, for these 300 communities throughout the country. I am out of time, but I plead the indulgence of the House for a moment. The Government is taking up the suggestion of Deputy Ó Cuív that we need to be putting more schemes into the planning process so that we have a constant pipeline of schemes to invest in, because we are going to see more severe weather in this country. The final flood risk management plans - not maps but plans and solutions - for these 300 areas are on target to be completed by the end of 2016. The CFRAM programme is the core implementation strategy for the Government's flood risk policy. It is also the principal vehicle for implementing the EU floods directive. Engineering consultants have been appointed by the OPW to implement the programme, through six regional studies. Local authorities and other stakeholders are involved and steering groups are in place.

This is not a report. This is about trying to predict flood hazard and coming up with solutions, and I look forward to working with all Deputies. This only works if there is money behind it. That is why we have put in place, through the capital plan, €430 million to be spent on such capital and flood projects between 2016 and 2021. To date, as a State, successive Governments have spent €410 million since 1995, and we will be spending more in the next five years on capital flood relief schemes than we have in the past 20 years. That is a sign of commitment, as a Government and as a State. However, there are currently up to seven flood relief schemes in construction - we are not waiting for CFRAM to be completed. There are a further 27 schemes at various stages of design, including those in Cork city, Bandon, Skibbereen, Crossmolina, Claregalway, Enniscorthy and others.

I want to address the situation with the Bandon flood defence scheme briefly. There has, understandably, been much comment and criticism from local residents over the delays in bringing the scheme to construction. Following the major flood event in the town in 2009, the OPW, along with Cork County Council, commenced work on devising proposals to deal with the problem. In late 2010, consultants were appointed and the process of designing a scheme commenced. Designing a flood defence scheme is very complex and it takes many years to get from A to B, but it is vital that the best possible solution to the flooding problem is found and this requires very detailed analysis of hydrological data and assessment of all possible options. The process of procuring contractors to carry out the scheme can also lead to delays. This, unfortunately, is what happened in Bandon, where there were legal challenges to the process in both 2013 and 2014. The proposed scheme, however, is now at tender stage for a civil works contractor, with tenders due in January 2016. This should allow shovels to be in the ground in Bandon in the middle of 2016. The scheme will be submitted very shortly to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform for confirmation under the Arterial Drainage Acts. The Minister will be required, under environmental legislation, to carry out an independent assessment. I will be monitoring this very closely and give Deputies my personal commitment that I want to see this scheme completed in the timeframe I have outlined. There are a number of other schemes I will come back to in response to some of the specific queries.

I welcome the Minister of State's fairly detailed response, outlining the issues, some of which are within the control of the Department and others which are not. For a household, it is very important to have access to the humanitarian assistance scheme through the community welfare offices, but there is a major role in these difficult times for insurance companies. By and large, they are being let off the hook, and that is not good enough. The Oireachtas select sub-committee on the environment, community and local government carried out discussions on this issue about a year ago. The report is almost ready for publication, but there is a particular role here for insurance companies to do the decent thing.

In so far as it is practicable, we can deal with those who are not insured through the €5 million scheme announced by Government this morning. That is very welcome. There is also an issue regarding the resources local authorities have in areas where the schemes are not up and running to do what they can, as Deputy Ó Cuív pointed out, in so far as is practicable, to ensure culverts, drains and so on are kept clear. There is a particular onus on local authorities at the moment to look at those affected businesses which have no insurance cover and which were struggling as it was and to give them a remission of rates, given the extraordinarily difficult circumstances that have been heaped on them.

The Minister of State's response gives a good outline of the long-term programme and the planning that has taken place regarding how some of these problems can be alleviated. The catchment flood risk assessment and management programme has produced flood maps and so on, but there is a need for urgent funding to be made available to local authorities to take some measures now to alleviate the problems because looking at the way the programme is laid out, it will be years and years before many towns will get to the point of having approval to go ahead and start drafting plans. There may be works that can be identified straight away by the OPW and the local authorities that can go some way to alleviating the problems. There is no doubt that we will be here every year, if we are still in the Dáil, for the next ten or 15 years, talking about these very specific areas. The Minister of State needs to outline to the House that there are some emergency works and emergency moneys available now to alleviate some of these problems.

I thank the Minister of State for his reply and for travelling down during the year to the various areas to see for himself the work that is being carried out by the OPW. In the short time he has now, perhaps the Minister of State could give me an update on the current situation in Ennis and when he expects the Ennis south scheme to commence. He might also have some updated information from the ESB regarding the potential flooding of south east Clare, in Springfield and Clonlara, which is a real worry for the many residents and landowners in that area.

I thank the Minister of State for his immense personal interest in the flooding that occurs regularly in south Galway. He has visited the area three times since he was appointed to that role. I know he did not have time in his initial contribution, but could he confirm that a budget is in place for the Dunkellin flood relief project, the extent of that budget and whether there are mechanisms to expedite the delivery of that project once An Bord Pleanála grants planning permission? Also, €400,000 has been allocated to the Kiltiernan-Ballinderreen flood relief project, which will be the subject of a planning application and decision by An Bord Pleanála. Is there any way of expediting that planning process and attaching an urgency to the planning application for Kiltiernan-Ballinderreen, so that the people who have been experiencing great anguish and strife in the last few days do not have to experience it again and so that both the Dunkellin and Kiltiernan-Ballinderreen projects can get under way next year?

As the Minister of State is aware, most of the town of Kenmare, particularly around the square, was totally submerged over the weekend. This is the third time this has happened over the past decade.

I ask that the Minister of State intervene immediately to ensure an interim programme is put in place there because a certain amount of works can be carried out. Only for the rapid response to alleviate the problems over the weekend, there would have been a lot of destruction. There already has been flooding to both commercial premises and homes.

Naturally, Kerry County Council needs immediate help to respond to many of the problems around the county. Also, it is an opportune time because consultation on the flood risk management programme is going on in the county at present.

The Minister of State met a delegation here and was favourable and receptive to the people of Rossbeigh, where 14 homes are cut off. As he will be aware, they only have pedestrian access. Funds have been put in place but the programme to be carried out will not be finished until 2017. I ask the Minister of State to expedite it and move it forward so that it would be ready to start, for instance, in the spring, with all the preparations and planning done. With the influx of revenue into the Exchequer at present, perhaps the Minister of State will be able to do something along those lines.

I also thank the Minister of State for his response. I welcome the €5 million package specifically for businesses that have been affected. It is unprecedented in the State and a positive development.

I ask the Minister of State to refer again to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the need, as these schemes are being rolled out, for greater efficiency within the agencies to ensure that undue delay in any of these schemes is not entertained. There are now a few in his court, namely Bandon and Skibbereen, and I ask that these would be confirmed at the earliest possible stage.

I take this opportunity to thank the Civil Defence, the emergency services, officials from the OPW, Cork County Council employees throughout the county, local authority employees throughout the country and volunteers in each of the towns and areas. I am sure that without their work much more damage would have been done. I refer, in particular, to Skibbereen where much of the damage was alleviated by great work and anticipative effort.

I join Deputy Cannon in supporting what the Minister of State said about the Dunkellin river and Kiltiernan. The Minister of State said that a decision on the Dunkellin river is expected from An Bord Pleanála before the end of the year. That is certainly welcome because it is one of the long-standing issues that affects south and east Galway.

I repeat what has been said about small funding for cleaning and dredging rivers. As a member of the River Suck drainage scheme, I have positive personal experience where Galway and Roscommon representatives worked together to get work done. The issue of removing dirt, silt and rushes from rivers was important. We need to get those small rivers clean. There was also the important issue of plastic bags preventing water flowing away through swallow holes or trying to get to the sea in south Galway. Finally, when one looks at forestry programmes, they also need to be compatible with drainage in the particular area where it is happening.

I thank the Minister of State for his reply.

We need to ensure in the future that the town defences are done. There is no question about that. In parallel, there is a need for a small works scheme for all the rural areas. In all of those areas, by their nature, quite modest funding would do a major amount of work but, normally, the hold-up there is administrative. A number of things need to be done, the first of which is to put a budget aside not only for the towns, but also for rural areas that are affected because a house is a house no matter where it is located.

Second, we need to speed up putting schemes through the process. The Minister of State dealt with that issue. He recognises that one will always get the conservative line of the Minister stating that we will not have the funding, but what most of us found in the end is that one often wound up with more money than schemes because there are inordinate delays with such matters as planning and the National Parks and Wildlife Service, NPWS.

The third issue, as I mentioned earlier, is that there should be a uniform protocol put in place to deal with traffic diversions that span counties because often at a county border the neighbouring county will not have signs up to say that one cannot get down a particular road. That sort of thing was evident over the weekend.

It is disappointing that the Minister of State referred to the River Dodder almost like an afterthought in the official reply, which, I assume, was prepared for him by his officials. This issue has been going on since 2012. I cannot impress upon the Minister of State enough just how serious this is for the residents. I commend the Minister of State on travelling around the country to visit other flood areas but I urge him to commit to travelling less than 2km-----

-----to meet the residents who live in Anglesea Road and the surrounding areas whose homes have been devastated and who are absolutely frustrated with the lack of progress and the tardy nature of this works programme. It is a relatively short stretch of river. The funding was allocated in 2012 and the reasoning and excuses that have been offered for the delays would make one wonder. That is a polite way of putting it. Otters that nobody was aware of when the works began have delayed some aspects of the works by up to 18 months. It is just not acceptable and it is not professional. It completely ignores the fact that these residents are exposed not only in terms of the potential damage to their homes, but also financially in terms of the absence of any flood insurance. I submitted this issue for a Topical Issue Debate but, unfortunately, it was not accepted by the Ceann Comhairle. Clearly, however, it is connected.

Will the Minister of State agree to meet the residents in the Anglesea Road area to discuss this matter and see if the works can be expedited? I would like it if he would commit to that in the House. Is that a "Yes"?

I could respond in a moment rather than shouting across the Chamber at the Deputy.

I welcome the Minister of State's reply. In so far as Laois is concerned, I want him to address the situation because it is very different from the other issues raised today in that families are trapped. There is a simple solution.

We spoke earlier about unspent money in the Government's flood relief coffers. The Minister of State might confirm how much of the fund has not been spent. If the local authority in this case makes a submission directly to the Department, we do not want it to be pushed around by civil servants, here, there and everywhere. If the local authority, which, in this case, is Laois County Council, wants to address the Clonterry situation and if it puts in a submission to the Department, will the Minister of State give me a commitment now that he will at least examine it to see if it can be fitted into this package? I do not want to get into a bureaucratic argument about whether it is a matter for the OPW or Laois County Council. In days gone by, it would have been the Barrow Drainage Board but it was abolished.

This is a ready-to-go scheme and all we need is a little dry weather. We do not need anything else for it. I ask the Minister of State to address the Laois situation in his reply. It is important for the families that are hemmed in and cannot get out in the Clonterry area.

Unfortunately, two minutes is all the Minister of State has to respond.

I will do my best. There were a lot of questions and, obviously, Members had a lot longer to ask them than I have to answer them.

On immediate works, let me be clear that there is an ongoing scheme called the minor flood mitigation scheme, for which any local authority can apply to the Office of Public Works. It has clear criteria. All the local authority engineers are well aware of it and it is published on the OPW website. They can apply for up to €0.5 million for what we describe as minor flood works but could end up making a very big difference. We are continuing to pay that out to local authorities to carry out works. I encourage all Members to familiarise themselves with that scheme. There are criteria attached to it, but they should have a look at the scheme. I am happy to have further engagement with any Deputy, including Deputy Stanley, if he wants to come back to me on his issue in Laois.

The issue of delays is a fair point. We have acknowledged that it takes time to get the schemes right, and we have to get the right schemes. We have seen in other countries with bad weather in recent times what happens when the schemes are not necessarily right. Having said that, we need to get them done as quickly as possible. We have shown that we will look at elements on a stand-alone basis where it makes sense.

Blackpool was supposed to be part of the River Lee scheme, and I gave a commitment that if Blackpool was ready to proceed before the River Lee, we would go ahead with it. I was in Blackpool approximately two weeks ago, moving it on. I also intend to ask the Office of Government Procurement, OGP, for which I have responsibility, to ensure that we are optimising every opportunity we have under EU procurement directives so there is no delay. I will ask OGP to prepare a report for me on it and to engage at a European level to ensure there are no delays.

The confirmation process which Deputy Harrington raised is relatively new and he is right. We are starting to run the tendering at the same time as the confirmation process in order to prevent any undue delays. I want to see more of it. There is a budget of approximately €6 million for the Dunkellin scheme which Deputy Cannon raised, and we will deliver the scheme by direct labour. While we are in the hands of An Bord Pleanála, I hope, if there is a positive result, we can proceed as quickly as possible. I am very sorry Templemore was flooded. Deputy Coonan has contacted me about the scheme, which we are pursuing and will progress in 2016. I will return to the Deputy with more details.

I agree with Deputy Creighton about flood insurance. We do not have it right yet. I was asked to chair an interdepartmental group on flood insurance. When the country floods, everybody says it is the job of the OPW but it is not. It is the job of many State agencies and local authorities. The Department of Finance is reviewing its policy on flood insurance and is due to report as part of the interdepartmental group in the spring. I am not satisfied that, if the State is potentially going to spent €1 billion of taxpayers' money over the next ten years delivering CFRAM, we could still have a scenario in which homes and businesses cannot get flood insurance. We are examining what other countries are doing. I am more than happy to meet with the residents and I have already visited the Dodder. I stand over the professionalism of the OPW staff, who do a very good job. I will seek a detailed note on the status of the scheme and, if the Deputy wants to follow it up, I will be happy to meet the residents. I tend to meet with as many delegations as I can.

Deputy Tom Fleming raised the situation of the people of Rossbeigh. I met them, and it is an extraordinarily difficult situation. We have made very clear what the OPW can do, and other agencies and Departments may need to participate, for example, the OPW does not maintain roads. I am waiting to hear from Kerry County Council on it and I am very happy to engage regarding it. Deputies Breen and Joe Carey asked about Ennis, which has been the focus of a number of flood relief schemes during recent years with the completion of both the contractors to carry out the scheme. This can lead to delays on occasion. The River Fergus Ennis upper and River Fergus Ennis lower flood relief schemes have been completed. Further works at Aughanteeroe and Fíor Uisce are ongoing and Clare County Council is progressing a scheme for Ennis south, which is expected to commence next year. A scheme for Clonakilty is at design stage, with the expectation that confirmation and tender processes will take place in the second half of 2016. I was pleased to launch the scheme in Clonakilty earlier this year.

There is a lot happening and I am willing to keep engaging with Deputies on it. While the OPW has very clear responsibilities, so, too, do the local authorities. They are doing the job very well. We all need to work together. The minor flood works scheme is there for some of the immediate issues that may be worth pursuing for local authorities.