I thank the Deputy for his question, which comes in a period of significant difficulty for many throughout the country after a number of bad weather events. There is already in place a national authority for flood risk management. The Office of Public Works, OPW, is the lead State body for the co-ordination and implementation of Government policy on the management of flood risk in Ireland. It is also the national competent authority for implementation of the 2007 EU directive on the assessment and management of flood risk. In that context and role it carries out and implements a very wide range of measures and programmes aimed at mitigating and minimising the impact of flooding on society, including the catchment flood risk assessment and management, CFRAM, programme; the flood relief capital works programme; the minor works scheme; the arterial drainage maintenance programme; hydrometric data gathering and analysis; and various studies and research on hydrology and flooding-related matters. In carrying out its role and functions it works in very close co-operation with other bodies involved with flooding matters to ensure there is a coherent and co-ordinated approach to flood risk management nationally.
The OPW carries out its flood risk management functions with full statutory underpinning. The general powers and functions of the Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland, under whose authority the OPW carries out its work, are set out in the State Authorities (Development and Management) Act 1993 and the Commissioners of Public Works (Functions and Powers) Act 1996. The commissioners exercise their powers and functions under the general consent of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. They also have extensive specific legislative powers to undertake flood mitigation measures and schemes under the Arterial Drainage Acts, 1945 and 1995. Further regulatory powers are contained in Statutory Instrument No. 122 of 2010 which transposed the EU floods directive into Irish law and which was amended by Statutory Instrument No. 495 of 2015.
In carrying out its lead co-ordinating role in flood risk management the OPW chairs an interdepartmental policy group comprising all of the main Departments and agencies which have policy responsibility for flood-related matters falling outside the direct remit of the OPW such as the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government and the Office of Emergency Planning in respect of a emergency response, local authority liaison and community resilience; the Department of Finance in respect of flood insurance; the Department of Social Protection in respect of humanitarian assistance; the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and the National Parks and Wildlife Service in respect of environmental matters; the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
The aim and work of the group is to ensure a comprehensive whole-of-government approach is taken to flood risk management and to introduce effective sectoral supports and policy measures in the different areas of responsibility. The group is finalising an interim report for the Government which it expects to submit shortly.
The OPW's comprehensive CFRAM programme is being carried out also on the basis of close co-ordination with all of the main players and stakeholders in the flood risk management area. Each CFRAM project has governance structures which require the involvement of all of the relevant local authorities and, where appropriate, for example, in the case of the Shannon CFRAM project, the main agencies such as the ESB, Waterways Ireland, Inland Fisheries and Bord na Móna which have functions which may be relevant to flood risk management in the river catchment. The CFRAM programme is the core strategy for addressing flood risk nationally and the involvement of all of the key players in the development of the flood management plans under the programme will ensure those plans and the measures they include to manage flood risk will take account of and address all of the activities of the various State bodies that may impinge on flooding. In relation to the River Shannon catchment furthermore, the Deputy will be aware that the Government has established a new Shannon catchment co-ordination group to enhance ongoing co-operation across all of the agencies involved with the river and to oversee implementation of the Shannon catchment flood risk management plan.
The OPW also works closely with local authorities in the implementation of major flood relief schemes in the main urban areas. The close working relationship and co-ordination of activities between the organisations has ensured the successful completion of major schemes in Clonmel, Mallow, Fermoy, Ennis, Dublin, Kilkenny, Carlow and Waterford. The OPW has also provided significant funding for local authorities since 2009 to carry out minor flood relief works throughout the country.
It is clear, therefore, that the role of the OPW as the lead national body for the management of flood risk is comprehensive and wide-ranging and involves developing and managing close working relationships with all of the main agencies and bodies in this area. As with all State bodies, in the context of the Government's public service reform programme, the OPW will continue to review and improve its service, wherever possible. I am satisfied, however, that its functions, powers, role and responsibilities in flood risk management address all of the main facets of policy and practice across the full spectrum of inter-related activities in this area. I am also fully satisfied that the OPW is carrying out its role effectively and professionally and that there is no basis for the establishment of a new statutory body for flood risk management.