River Shannon Management Agency Bill 2020: First Stage

I move:

That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to create a single competent authority to co-ordinate flood risk and management along the River Shannon and to provide for matters connected therewith.

Ireland's longest river is the River Shannon. It is also the slowest moving because of the low gradient. It flows through 11 counties from Cavan to Limerick yet currently, 20 State agencies from the ESB to Waterways Ireland and local authorities are involved in water management, maintenance and other works. Each has responsibility for protecting its own prospects.

Data show there has been an increase in the pattern of flooding over the last 60 years and there is categorical evidence that the floods are getting bigger. These events threaten homes, farming lands and businesses and erode the quality of life rural Ireland and jeopardise its very existence. It is time there was single agency tasked with management of all aspects of the River Shannon. The threat posed continues to affect communities with a detrimental impact on local areas. What we need now is effective management, prevention, protection and preparedness.

I wish to bring the perspective of the residents who endure the constant flooding that happens in their areas, particularly, the residents of Springfield, Clonlara. I attended a public meeting there before Covid-19 hit Ireland in early March and was horrified at the stories relayed to me by these residents. These people endure extreme stress and some would call it trauma. We have had incidents where residents have ended up trapped in the car while trying to access a road close to their houses. These people endure an awful lot of stress and cannot even get home insurance on their properties any longer.

Now, we have all suffered nationally in similar ways. We are dealing with Covid-19 and have had to make huge adaptations to our everyday lives. That is exactly what these residents endure every year. We are talking about Christmas time as well. People had to vacate properties for long periods, sometimes for two to three weeks, and stay in a hotel. Like any other ordinary family, some families have children with special needs and children with their own needs that need to be looked after and they must to do this from a hotel room. It is absolutely unacceptable. One river agency is absolutely needed for the sake of the residents.

I am delighted to present this Bill to the Dáil and to speak on it on First Stage. Many people live along the River Shannon and everyone is sick and tired of the floods hitting and the politicians coming out on their boats to have photographs taken and to say how awful it is. The politicians go away, the floods recede and that is the end of it. Then the floods come again and again.

Families, businesses and farmers are affected and we really need to shout "Stop" because it keeps happening. The River Shannon needs to be maintained and managed and that is not happening. Pinch points have been identified and we have had report after report. I do not suggest we should drain the Shannon. I am advocating that people should go to those pinch points and clear it out. I suggest we should manage and maintain it.

I am aware environmental concerns are often raised and cited when it comes to this issue, such as protection of the flora and fauna and so on. We are now at the stage, however, where there is no flora and fauna because they are not attracted to the river any more as it is so badly maintained. Many parts along the river are in a poor state and I believe maintenance would improve the position of the flora and the fauna.

We must put people first on this issue, that is, farmers, families and businesses who have been flooded repeatedly. In some cases, homes have been absolutely destroyed and families have not been able to return and live in them again. This Bill makes absolute sense. I met with the Save Our Shannon group on Friday. It cares about the river wants to see it maintained and managed. The way to do that is to have a single authority for the River Shannon. We need to stop talking about this issue when the flood comes and take action right now. I commend this Bill to the House.

Is the Bill opposed?

Question put and agreed to.

Since this is a Private Members' Bill, Second Stage must, under Standing Orders, be taken in Private Members' time.

I move: "That the Bill be taken in Private Members' time."

Question put and agreed to.