I am delighted to have my first opportunity to welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Moran, to the House. Come the moment, come the man - the Minister of State has taken to the job like a duck to water. There is no doubt that it was a very wise choice to seek that job and work in it. I know the Minister of State's personal commitment in Athlone over the last few years was enormous. The damage done to his own town in Athlone was serious. I know the Minister of State is working on solutions there too and has the personal experience. Let us be genuine about that.
I am also impressed that the Minister of State is proposing the dredging of the River Shannon this year, which he might confirm, specifically the weir at Meelick. This has been a bone of contention for years. I was in government myself and was a Deputy for the area of south Roscommon. This issue arose every year, particularly in spring. I was in Clonown, which is beside the Minister of State's area, in the 1970s when it flooded. We relocated, as with the policy the Minister of State has outlined, as certain houses just cannot be protected. We put a good deal in place for that. That is a last resort but it is a solution in some cases. Back in the 1950s, long before the Minister of State was born, there was an enormous crisis during the time of the late Brian Lenihan and there was some relocation then. The road from Athlone to Clonown has been cut off on numerous occasions. It happened long before these recent flooding problems. It goes back years in that callows area. There is a causeway into Clonown. When the floods come, it is covered. There is no way in or out and it is very difficult for the people of that area.
All politicians have local concerns. There was a problem in a place called Correal near Athleague. The Naughton family there was very badly flooded at the time. That was approximately a year ago, at the time of the last big weather crisis. I do not expect answers straight away but maybe the Minister of State or his official can provide some. The place is called Correal and it is a question of people trying to get insurance. They refurbished their house but no insurance is available for them. They are fearful that properties affected by the flooding in the past which are now refurbished will be in danger of flooding again. The levels of the River Suck are very high at the moment. We border it. Much of the land of the farm my wife Mary and son Conor are farming is under water but that is a traditional flooding situation and we are able to cope with that. I will not make any case for that.
The maintenance of that river, the Derryhippo, which flows into the River Shannon, is an issue. Before the Minister of State's time, when the joint drainage committees were abolished, the River Suck Drainage Board was a nice board which worked very well. One could raise issues with it. I was elected to it in 1974. I think it was the only job that was left. Every other job was gone when I was a councillor at that time so it was decided to put me on that board. I was there for a number of years. One could make representations. Could some form of board not be re-established that would look at the levels of the River Suck? One could go to the engineers working on it and the council maintained it. It was a joint board. There are numerous joint boards. The Acting Chairman would know this from his own area. That was a useful board.
Another area is Ardeevin in Castleplunkett. That is a flood area which came up more than ever before. Talks are going on with landowners between Roscommon County Council and probably the Minister of State's Department. I appeal to him for funding for that project. The flood cut off a business, a pub in that area. The road from Castleplunkett to Tulsk was cut off for months. That man was practically put out of business. There is a solution. The engineers are in discussions. The Roscommon County Council senior engineer, Eugene Dwyer, is looking at that issue. He has had some success with work already, particularly in Early's pub in Brierfield and Ballinaheglish, which was flooded for a long time. The levels in the loughs are an issue. The level of Lough Funshinagh is going down at the moment. I know an investigation is being carried out by the Minister of State's Department. I understand he was at Lough Funshinagh. It is a very unusual case. It has been there for years and nobody can understand where the water is going. I believe there is work to trace where the water is going from there but it is not the first time. It was raised before and there were many efforts in the years gone by. It is not a new situation but it has created more difficulties in the last few years than it did for numerous years. It was a natural phenomenon. It came up during the winter and went off in early spring. It did not affect houses. The Minister of State was there himself and knows the situation. I compliment Roscommon County Council for acting to raise the level of roads which helps in that regard.
I was in Galway yesterday and what happened with the area beside Jurys Inn was a serious flooding issue. The water levels came up very quickly. The Minister of State was there. There should have been some sort of early warning. I know the Minister of State said at the time that it was not the time to discuss it.
However, he met the councillors there, including one Labour Party councillor whose shop was badly affected. I was in the shop, which has flooded before. I am unsure what solution the Minister of State has for that particular area of the docks in Galway. It will be a costly exercise to bring about a solution but I know the Minister of State has endeavoured in that area.
I understand people in Donegal are dissatisfied with the results. My colleague will outline what happened in Donegal. The people there are unhappy with the follow-up in that regard.
The €1 billion funding is welcome but funding is needed for the immediate situations arising now rather than for the period up to 2027, which is a long time from now. The Minister of State made the point that he could do with €1 billion now to solve the problems and he is making an effort in that regard as well.
Weather conditions are relevant. Storms are coming. Recently, Storm Ophelia and other storms have caused havoc.
I appeal to the Minister of State to look at the situation in the constituency of Roscommon-Galway, in particular the situation I raised today. All in all, I know the Minister of State is hands-on and available. If the Minister of State is in Roscommon, I would like him to take the opportunity to visit some of the areas under review to ensure we can prevent recurrence of flooding.