Flooding: Statements (Resumed)

I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Kevin Boxer Moran.

I, too, welcome the Minister of State. On a personal note, as this is my first one-to-one engagement with him since our last engagement in the chamber in Mullingar a mere two years ago, I congratulate him on his elevation to ministerial office in that short period. Unfortunately, that is where the plaudits end. I know his background. He is very passionate about this issue which he has dealt with locally. As someone who lives on the banks of the River Shannon and is an able and eager fisherman, he is more aware than many of the problems experienced. He inherited his role, as well as many of the issues about which I have a gripe, but I would like to see improvements in the future.

The major issue is the underspend. We were promised an allocation of €45 million per annum between 2011 and 2017 for the provision of flood defences. To date, there has been an underspend of €53 million. In the national development plan for the period 2018 to 2027 the predicted spend has been increased to €100 million per annum. I hope this does not mean there will be an equivalent increase in the underspend in the area within the Minister of State's remit.

The provision of an effective national flood warning system is at least five years down the line, which is not acceptable in the light of current circumstances. Flooding issues seem to recur daily. I will not get into the debate on climate change, but flooding seems to be occurring more frequently.

Flood defences and warning systems aside, the main issue remains the insurance industry which is cherry-picking customers. Quotations and refusals even to give people a quote are based on catchment flood risk assessment and management, CFRAM, studies and areas that flooded previously. Fianna Fáil's Flood Insurance Bill 2016 would address these issues, but it is being stymied by the Government's refusal to issue a money message. If the Government is not going to do something about the issue, why is it stopping us from trying to do something positive?

I may not be happy with the amount of work done, given how much more needs to be done, but insurance companies are not even recognising the great work that has been done. The Minister of State's predecessor, Deputy Seán Canney, agreed that, although a €140 million flood investment programme was in operation in Cork, the insurance companies would not cover properties in the area once the work had been completed. This issue has to be addressed immediately.

It has been proved that a €280 million spend on flood defences will result in a net saving of €1.2 billion once the work is completed. In some cases work is not being done quickly enough because of planning delays. The Government needs to get the local authorities on side in the affected areas. This is a major issue.

I am informed that there have been 107 applicants under the voluntary homeowners relocation scheme, 26 of whom have been told that they do not qualify, while only eight have been approved.

Where are the other 73 people? I would like to hear that from the Minister of State. What is their current status? They are in limbo. People had to do a great deal of soul searching before they even agreed to apply for this scheme. For a person to move from his or her home where that person was probably born and lived all his or her life is a serious and difficult decision for anyone to make, but having made that decision and submitted the application, only eight out of 107 applications have been approved. I accept that the 26 who have not been approved know where they stand, but there are 73 people in limbo in this regard and I would like to know their current status. I would like to know also if the 26 people who have been told they do not qualify for relocation will be prioritised for remedial schemes. What is their current status?

I refer to the River Shannon which, as I said at the outset, I am aware is dear to the Minister of State's heart, but it should be the main focus of our attention. It is Ireland's first and foremost river. It rises in the Shannon Pot, in County Cavan, and continues for approximately 360 km until it disgorges its waste into the Atlantic Ocean at Clare, Kerry and Limerick. Fianna Fáil, building on the recommendations of a 2021 report by the then Joint Committee on the Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht, advocates a single agency to cut through the bureaucratic layers. I almost addressed the Minister of State as "Boxer". I was thinking of the chamber in Mullingar again. How long were we discussing this issue at that level? Westmeath and the Minister of State's home town, Athlone, form an integral site on the Shannon.

The current Shannon flood risk State agency co-ordination working group simply reconstitutes a non-statutory body that Fine Gael abolished in 1994. What is needed is a legislative basis with real teeth to avoid bureaucratic delays and take whatever action is necessary to manage the Shannon.

Time is against me. We seem to be concentrating on flood defences. The Shannon and other rivers need to be looked at and we need to consider seriously, through a new agency, dredging these rivers. I am spokesperson on agriculture and while tackling the flooding of people's homes is and must be a priority, it is not even considered that thousands of acres of farmland are lost to water every year. Dredging and proper management of the Shannon would alleviate the pressures for those individuals also. I do not want to take from the grief, the hardship and the priority that should be given to people's homes, but flood defences are in ways a makeshift solution in areas, whereas if the River Shannon and other similar size rivers were dredged properly, it would not only alleviate the homeowners' problems but would also free up the thousands of acres that are unworkable for six to eight months of the year in many cases for our agricultural community.

I will probably not take the five minutes. My two colleagues, Senator Conway-Walsh and Senator Pádraig Mac Lochlainn, spoke previously.

The Minister of State is very welcome to the House. It is good to see him. I want to speak from a Dublin perspective about the impact of coastal erosion along the east coast of Dublin. The Office of Public Works has several flood defences mapped out under the eastern regional flood risk and assessment management plan. I will be parochial in saying that some of them have been delayed or postponed, some for years. Will the Minister of State give me an update on the Camac and Poddle rivers? The Camac runs through Kilmainham and Inchicore and the Poddle through Kimmage and parts of Crumlin. In terms of the Camac river, I walked around the area two weeks ago. There is a greenway proposed from the HSE headquarters at Dr. Steevens' Hospital right up to Military Road for pedestrianisation and for cycle lanes but also for a widening of the Camac because there was severe damage from flooding in 2011 at Our Lady's Lane and around that low lying area of Kilmainham. There is a difficulty, which seems to be top secret, with the plan for the new Garda operations centre at Military Road. That seems to be impacting now upon the widening of the Camac river in that area. Will the Minister of State give me an update on whether that greenway, which will prevent flooding in the future, will go ahead? A culvert collapsed there in 2015. All that needs to be managed but it seems a Garda top secret planning application may override that, leaving that area very vulnerable to flooding in the future. I do not have more to say other than to ask the Minister of State to elaborate on that.

I welcome the Minister of State to the House for the second time this week. I will raise with him an issue I raised on the Order of Business two days ago but first I will speak in a general way to the issue of flooding throughout the country and the fact that this will be an ever-increasing problem as a result of climate change, which we have to acknowledge. It does not fall to the Minister of State but we need to start thinking outside the box, particularly in terms of all the farming sheds throughout the country that could be covered in solar panels and photovoltaics.

The other issue I have raised here numerous times and will have to raise again on the Order of Business is the lack of guidelines for local authorities on solar farms. We should be helping and encouraging people into the renewable energy sector and not making life more difficult. I know of one local farmer who had his application refused on the basis that there were no guidelines.

In the short time available to me I want to address a local issue but I want to acknowledge the great work done by the Office of Public Works, OPW, and the great amounts of money that are being spent and are due to be spent such as the €140 million to be spent in Cork, the issues in Clonmel that we saw on television every year but which have been addressed, and the €10 million that was to be spent in Crossmolina, the town my father hailed from, among many others.

The issue I want to focus on is the coastal erosion in north Dublin, particularly in Portrane but also in Rush. We have an emergency in Portrane. We have a family living in a house that is literally 3 ft from the edge of the cliff. There is nothing like standing there to realise the precariousness of the situation. The corner of the building is literally 3 ft from the edge of the cliff and a 20 ft drop. Three generations of a family live in the house - Grainne, Amy and Fay - and their house will fall into the sea. I was down there in 2012 with the then Minister of State, Brian Hayes, when we had serious coastal erosion. I recall the struggle locals got involved in to put bags in place to protect the cliff. Those bags are now nearly 40 ft from the cliff edge. They were at the foot of the cliff at that time. We were told this was a once in a lifetime event but we have it again now, and as I said earlier, with climate change we will see more of it.

I know the Minister of State is working to try to address this issue with the local council and the local authority. I have appealed to Fingal County Council to take emergency action on it because it is a humanitarian issue and we do not want to see this family made homeless, but that is what will happen. In all, there are 13 houses in danger in a very immediate way, but as I said the other day, if the water breaches a small mound a few more yards in, it will flood and dislocate the Burrow from the rest of the peninsula, where 1,200 to 1,500 people live. That will cost considerable sums of money to correct so why can we not do something now to bring people together? I called for that 12 months ago. I know that is the Minister of State's intention and I wish him well with it, but he needs to knock heads together and get the interested parties who are involved in this to come up with a solution. The time for talking has long passed. I refer to Fingal County Council, the OPW, the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and planning officials.

While we are very interested in the environment and special areas of conservation, we cannot have a situation where lives and livelihoods are to be lost for the sake of a rigid interpretation of special areas of conservation. I was never one of the people who kept blaming Europe for all our ills, and I will not blame it for our ills in this case either. It is up to us to negotiate a realistic settlement and find a way of dealing with this problem. Lives and livelihoods are at stake as well as a person's right to their home. This house has been in that location since before 1963 so let there be no talk of other issues. This family are entitled to feel safe in their own home, and as we speak they are not safe.

This area will be seriously afflicted in the very short term if some action is not taken.

This family is in immediate danger. There is no greater neglect than when one knows the danger and does nothing about it. Again I appeal to Fingal County Council. I recognise all the great work it has done during the weather crisis of recent days, all the good work it does and the plans it has for a coastal greenway which would be brilliant for people from north County Dublin, people coming in from the airport, and the people of Dublin generally because we are well served by trains all the way down the track. However, we need urgent action for this family. I appeal to the Minister of State to use his influence to encourage people to come together to find an immediate solution for this problem while we work on a more medium-term solution. A win-win situation is possible here because the works to be done can be done in such a way as to set the scene for the ultimate coastal greenway which will be put in. Time and tide wait for no man, woman or child and they will not wait for this family. It will be on our heads if we do not take action. That would not be a good reflection of all the excellent work which has been carried out to date by both the local authority and the Minister of State's Department, which I commend for the work it has done in keeping us safe.

To refer to the expression that time and tide wait for no man; tide, time and climate change will wait for no man, woman or human being on this planet. My party's stance on the issue of planning and construction on flood plains is well known to the Minister and State and others so I will not labour it too much today. However, I do think it bears repeating that any approach to flood prevention must consider the climate future at which we are looking. Global warming, rising temperatures, increased rainfall and greater instability will mean that areas on flood plains and near major watercourses which are currently designated for the development of housing will simply have to be abandoned. It is better to do that before construction commences and before people make these areas their homes.

To refer again to what Senator Reilly said, what is happening in terms of coastal erosion is incredible. I see it around my home town of Tramore. We have to start thinking of the families living in properties on the coastal fringe, close to the sea. We have to start making mitigation plans. As Senator Reilly said, this has to be done now because houses are falling into the sea in some places. It is happening in Dublin and in Wexford. We have a huge problem on our hands. All national legislation, local area development plans and, indeed, the national planning framework must reflect and react to this oncoming reality, lest we box ourselves and future generations into very unsafe corners.

I would also like to address the preservation of the natural barriers to flooding which we enjoy in some places. Coming from the town of Tramore and having seen the violent storms we have experienced - the end of a hurricane like Ophelia and Storm Emma - I note that we were told that events like this would happen only once in our lifetime. We are not seeing them once in our lifetime however, but multiple times. It is not that we are living longer. We are seeing this as a result of global warming and climate change. Everything must be done to support communities. We must defend natural defences to make sure that they function when the high tides and big waves come in. This applies to riverside natural defences and wetland areas that can cushion the force of high water levels at times of peak rainfall.

There is an area in Tramore called the Back Strand. It is a special area of conservation covering 500 ha. Mitigation work was carried out there a few years ago. Part of the Back Strand area that used to flood was opened up. Back in the early 1900s there had been defence mechanisms there. It has been opened up to create a sponge area. It will mitigate the force of flooding and it will save our sand dune system for a time. There are actions that can be taken and which we must take to ensure that communities, farmers and agricultural lands are supported in this regard.

I have also addressed an issue in the Seanad previously in respect of the people of Cork, our Seanad Leader's county. The people of Cork - men and women who love their city - are coming to us in the Green Party, calling us and sending us emails because of their concerns for the River Lee and their love of their natural surroundings and their city. They are adamant that the proposals for thicker walls on the river within the city are inappropriate, disproportionate and will fundamentally alter the feel and the look of the city, cutting it off from its very core. I ask the Minister of State to engage with the people and campaigning groups in Cork and to let the conversation go on. I am a great believer that if one consults well with communities they will give one the answers. They know the answers. They live there. They have that feel for the environment and the experience of living in it. They will help us to get the solutions. I ask the Minister of State to engage with the people of Cork and with the people who are concerned about the area of Cork city in order to ensure that whatever defences are put in place are appropriate to protect the city of Cork not just for now but for the medium and long term.

I welcome the Minister of State and commend him for the work he is doing. I also thank him for his proactivity and his presence here today. This is a very important debate. I want to begin where Senator Grace O'Sullivan ended in terms of Cork city and the need to protect it from future flooding. The history of flooding in Cork city is well documented and well known. The effect on homeowners and businesses is devastating with the costs of damage running into the hundreds of millions of euro. It has a profound effect and impact on the lives of people and business owners. Senator Grace O'Sullivan is right. We all love our city and want to see it protected. There is a debate going on regarding alternative proposals and there has been consultation. I was at a public meeting in City Hall and I know that there is consultation ongoing regarding Morrison's Island. I commend the OPW for its work in drawing up proposals. I agree with Senator Grace O'Sullivan that we should not allow projects for Cork to be lost or further delayed. It is imperative that we act now. I am sure there can be a meeting of minds between the two groups.

Flood relief and flood defence are very important. We have a duty of care to the people affected. We should picture and put ourselves in the minds of the business people and home owners who hear a weather alert about the possibility of future flooding in Cork. Imagine how they felt last week when Paschal Sheehy was on the 6.01 p.m. and 9 p.m. news speaking about potential flooding due to the snow. It has a devastating impact. I stood in people's kitchens, living rooms and business premises that had been damaged and affected by flooding. We must look after such people. That is our duty now.

I welcome the €6 million plan for the regeneration of Morrison's Island. It is about enhancing the public realm, but also about putting in place a flood defence project. There are many talking points and topics of discussion emanating from the public consultation and the information days that have been held. There is another such day tomorrow. As the Senator correctly said, that is the benefit of public consultation. People can feed into the process and present their viewpoints. The OPW must work with all of us - which it is doing - to ensure that we create a flood defence plan.

Tidal flood events in Cork are becoming more prevalent. I commend the Save Cork City group on its interaction and engagement. It has helped stimulate debate and presented many different viewpoints that perhaps would not otherwise get heard. We cannot allow a position where there will be a decision to stall rather than move on this plan.

I was very hopeful when I read the national planning framework, which speaks about Cork. It indicates that further to completion of the lower flood relief scheme, the issue of flood management must be addressed as part of any future strategy for Cork, particularly with respect to the edge of the city adjoining the River Lee. That is to be welcomed. I know the Minister of State is sincere and very genuine in his work on the Cork issue. We cannot allow a position to continue where there is fear of flooding and actual flooding. We have seen a genuine attempt made to ensure Cork is protected and we must act as the people of Cork will not forgive us if we do not. This is a time for leadership by all of us. If it means knocking heads together - I know the Minister of State is good at that and getting things done - we should do that. I thank the Minister of State for his interest, his courtesy and availability to meet at all times. I have always found him very accessible. We have a duty to the people of Cork to ensure a flood defence mechanism can be put in place, and I hope we can do that.

I am guided by Senators. I am delighted to be here today to finish the debate, and flooding is a major issue around the country. For every Member in this and the other House, there are constituents who are worried and concerned about it. As some Senators have said, when we hear of rain and commentators on television speaking about flooding, alarms can be raised in everybody's mind, none more so than my own. When I came to the House the last day, there were a number of questions. Will I reply to the questions from today and provide a written response to the others or read the response to all the queries? I can leave it in the hands of the Acting Chairman.

I will go ahead so. A number of Senators raised questions relating to climate change. It is a major concern for each and every one of us and it faces us on the doorsteps. Some politicians want to ignore it but I was very impressed coming here as so many Senators spoke about climate change, both on the previous day and today. We must all deal with climate change; we cannot ignore it. It is coming down the tracks. Every flood defence, including embankments and walls, takes climate change into consideration, especially with the rise in sea levels and increased rainfall. The Office of Public Works, OPW, is very much on its game with respect to climate change.

Senator Paul Daly, along with a great number of others, raised the matter of insurance. Working with Insurance Ireland and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, I have come a long way since my first discussion about insurance. There is 78% coverage where we build flood walls or embankments, so insurance companies are insuring. There are issues but this is a matter for the Department. People here and in other places maintain that once a flood embankment is built, it is up to the OPW to insure them. We have a memorandum of understanding with insurance companies and we liaise with them, giving them information. In the past two years there has been a major improvement in insurance matters.

Catchment flood risk and assessment, CFRAM, is another matter that has long been spoken of. I spoke about it at a local level for ten years. It has identified 130 schemes right around the country. We are talking about 40,000 maps right around the country. In the process of delivering on those 130 schemes, we saw Galway, Donegal and Mountmellick being flooded, along with places like Bandon. CFRAM identified those. I am happy to say I have the 29 flood maps back from the Department and we are meeting the week after next to finalise a date for announcing CFRAM. It will be announced in Athlone in the coming weeks. I assure every Member in the House that I have put much effort into this. I have put much time into travelling around the country and meeting so many people affected by the issues. When Senators put down questions they come to me and the reply usually speaks about waiting for CFRAM. We are now coming to an end and CFRAM is to be delivered in the coming days.

Everybody believes the home relocation scheme is a fix for all people but it is not. Some people may have spent hours protecting their homes over three, four and five weeks and others would have seen their houses flooded. We set up a home relocation scheme to see what we could do for those people. There were 107 applications and 21 did not make the grade. My Department has asked those applicants to come back in. Some, particularly those along the Shannon, have said to me that if I can keep the water at the level it was this year, they would rather stay in their house as they do not want to relocate. At the same time, some people want to relocate. We have a roadshow at present which is meeting those people and trying to speed up the process of delivery. I am happy at the pace as it is not simple; we cannot just turn around and present this. It is a major issue for people to hand over the keys of their houses and not live where their sons and daughters were reared. Some people do not want to go. We are giving much consideration to this and working very closely with local authorities to ensure that the people who want to go and who qualify for the scheme will get a result. I am happy in that regard.

In the past number of weeks we have sped up the process. There are approximately 75 eligible applications and we are working through it. I do not deny it is a slow process from both sides. Senator Paul Daly said some people are wondering why it is taking so long. We have written to some people who have not come back to us yet. People have contacted me by phone and have told me they do not want to move. I must take all that into consideration.

A number of Senators raised the minor works scheme. We give €3 million per year for minor works and some local authorities around the country are better than others in coming for that money. Some are very slow to act. I say to Senators to go back to local councillors and local authority personnel and tell them where there are flooding issues. We have changed the criteria and this has made more authorities and schemes eligible for the fund.

I will deal with some of today's questions. Senator Paul Daly spoke about a potential lack of spending but he is wrong. Fianna Fáil has put out that information. In 2015, €16 million was not spent. For 2016 and 2017, I could have spent more than I had; I have spent all my allocation and I have not let any money go back. I looked for this ministerial job and I will spend every shilling available to me, as the Senator knows better than most. I fought tooth and nail in the capital budget for €1 billion for the people of this country and I got it. I intend to spend every shilling of it. I want to put a plan in place so whoever follows me as Minister of State with this responsibility will bring an end to flooding in many places right around the country.

There were queries about speeding up the planning process. I will meet officials from the Departments dealing with housing and heritage to see how we can speed up the process. I agree that the time between announcing a scheme and seeing shovels on the ground is far too long. I want to see if I can speed up that process.

The Senator spoke about a single agency dealing with dredging of the Shannon.

I have worked closely with all the agencies on the River Shannon during the past nine months. With myself at the helm at the top of the table at all the meetings we have had, we are working collectively together on everything I have proposed, everything we have considered and all that we are trying to achieve. If I go down the route of creating a single agency for the Shannon, I will end up caught up in red tape and legal arguments and nothing will happen, but as the Minister responsible I will not stand by that.

I want to continue with the works I started last year. Senator Paul Daly will be aware that last year was the first time we saw machines in the River Shannon since Queen Victoria's time. People said it would never happen but we made it happen. We have delivered. I want to continue with those works. I agree with the Senator that we need to see maintenance works on the Shannon along with flood walls. It about protecting urban and rural areas and I want to look after the rural areas as much as the urban areas along the course of the Shannon. We applied for nine licences last year and got seven. We hope to continue that maintenance programme on the Shannon very shortly but the water level is high at present, and that is what I intend to do.

When the catchment flood risk assessment and management, CFRAM, study is announced, we will be protecting 95% of people's properties that are at risk from flooding. For the 5% of people's properties that will not be covered by it, it is my job to consider other schemes. That is what I am currently doing to ensure all those people's properties are protected. That is what I intend to do and I give the Senator an assurance on that.

Moving on to Senator Reilly's contribution, he will be aware that I visited the people in the Burrow in Portrane and met representatives of the local authority. Some person in the media, through a representative, put out the rumour that I was annoyed with Fingal County Council and said things about me that I never said. I have worked closely with Fingal County Council. People in the county council and officials in my Department spoke last night and they are working collectively to see if we can sort out the issue in Portrane. There is not an easy solution. I visited Portrane and most of the coastal areas around the country and Portrane is the most serious of them all. I will be honest in saying that. If we are going to seriously tackle the problem of coastal erosion, we can do works in Portrane that can be echoed right around the coastline.

As I said previously, I believe it was in the House, sometimes when one proposes a measure it might not fit into the landscape or it might not be what the people of the area want but it might be what we have to look to for the future. I visited Scotland recently and they have 97 properties ready to fall into the sea. They are thinking along the same lines I am thinking, namely, that we have to start thinking outside the box when it comes to coastal erosion, and that is something to which I am committed. My Department is working closely with Fingal County Council. I spoke to the heritage service last night and said that when we sit around the table we will try to fix the problem. I do not want to give any guarantees that I have a magic wand I can wave that will sort out the problem overnight. However, I am putting all the work and effort into trying to do that. That has been going on since 2012. I am only in this office eight months and I have singly put together the three groups that I believe can move forward with this and that can work together on it.

I may have to come back to the Senator on the two questions he asked me. A question was tabled to my Department but, as he can imagine, I would not be fully up to date on that. I will come back to him with a detailed response to those.

Senator Ned O'Sullivan asked about flood defences. I am on the same page as him in that respect. There are arguments in favour of walls versus embankments and vice versa, but that is not the issue, it is about protecting people. My job as Minister of State is to protect people. The Senator mentioned Cork, as did Senator Horkan. I went to Cork and met the people. It was not planned that I would walk into a shop. I met people on the streets. I asked them what they wanted and they had one request, namely, to build the walls for them. I advise everybody that I have €140 million to spend in Cork and I give great credit to the local councillors for taking the initiative with respect to planning under Part 8 of the legislation. People will see the good work the Office of Public Works does, and I say the good work because the OPW schemes have never failed. However, we cannot protect properties, buildings and towns without having disruption. We work closely with those people to try to minimise that disruption. The scheme in Clonmel that was mentioned earlier is fabulous. There is also a fabulous scheme in Waterford. We are working with people. Some people want glass; others want Perspex in this respect. The Senators should trust me on this, having regard to the River Dodder in Dublin. The Senators should go to see what we did there. All the glass we put up is broken or cracked. It does not look well. A tourist would ask, "What is the idea of a cracked wall". It is not a simple job to fix it for everyone.

I met people from Save Cork City on two occasions here in the House. I have met most of the Deputies on the issue. We had a presentation in the AV room and I would hate to tell the Senators the number of people who showed up from Leinster House. I was annoyed about it. We then put on displays in Cork and people showed up in great numbers, but the people who are giving out are not the ones who showed up. That annoys me too because I am trying to do what the people want. I accept that we have to have conversations, collaborate and deliver for the people but the people of Cork I met asked me one question, namely, to get on with the job. That is what I intend to do. That deals with Senator Buttimer's question.

Senator Leyden asked about Correal and Castleplunkett regarding the local authorities. They were refused for two schemes. They can come back on that under a new point under the minor works scheme. The Senator asked about Lough Funshinagh. I went down and met the people and the executive of Lough Funshinagh and they are going to come into my Department with a proposal in that regard. The Senator also asked about removing the weir board at Meelick Weir. I announced a €6 million investment last year to remove 22 pinch-points on the River Shannon. Based on the removal of those, the weir board will be taken out. I am happy about that.

Senator Lombard requested a update regarding a bridge in Bandon. We gave him that in writing and he was happy about that. He also spoke about Clonakilty which I visited last Friday and announced a €22.7 million scheme for the town.

Senator Mac Lochlainn asked about Buncrana and I gave him the information on that town. He also asked about Quigley's Point. A meeting has taken place between the local authorities and my Department and they are submitting an application for a minor works scheme.

Senator Dolan asked about flooding from the point of view of people with disabilities. I have forwarded his proposals to the national co-ordination group. I agree with what he said. Leaving aside flooding events, if we had a snow event such as the one we had last week, we need to be able to reach people with disabilities, ensure there is access to them and that they are looked after. That is a matter we have to take up at national level.

Regarding the contributions of Senators Maria Byrne and Kieran O'Donnell, I announced a scheme in that respect. I have not been found wanting and they know that. They asked about gulleys, roads and drainage. That is a matter for the local authority, not my Department, but where we can help we will help.

Senator Grace O'Sullivan asked about building on flood plains and the issue was also raised last week. I totally disagree with building on flood plains. Some people have said that we could build apartments on flood plains at a height above ground level but they will still flood. I am against building on flood plains. I will be straight up and honest about that because I have seen where houses were built on a flood plain in my town of Athlone and we had flooding there. For those reasons I stand over what I have said.

Senator Humphreys asked about road drainage. With respect to the allocation that came from Deputy Ross's Department, for the first time in ten years we have seen an allocation for drainage. I am happy about that and I have worked very closely with the Minister on that. I believe we can do such drainage works into the future.

Senator Hopkins asked about Ballinasloe. It is part from the CFRAM project and it is something that could be delivered. She asked about turloughs in other areas in her county, which are being controlled of Geological Survey Ireland which is monitoring the situation with the local authorities. She asked about a minor works scheme. We have always worked with local authorities on the minor works schemes.

Senator Conway-Walsh asked about Carraholly. I agree with what the Senator said but my officials have met Mayo County Council regarding Carraholly. The Minister, Deputy Ring, is working closely with me to deliver this and he wants to see that happen. The Senator also asked about flood defences, which is part of the CFRAM project. She also asked about road drainage, which comes under an allocation received by the local authority.

Senator Joe O'Reilly asked about insurance cover and the CFRAM study, which are matters with which I have dealt.

Senator Colm Burke raised the matter of the environmental impact assessment, EIA directive. I agree with him regarding the transposing of that directive into all arterial drainage legislation. We are working closely with people on the new directive from Europe to ensure it is transposed into all arterial drainage legislation. The Senator asked about Glashaboy. A tree felling contractor has been appointed and as soon as ground conditions improve that work will start.

Senator Mulherin asked about the CFRAM project in terms of Ballina. There are 130 schemes and Ballina has been identified with respect to a proposal in one of those schemes and we will see what happens. The Senator asked about Lacken Pier. It is a local authority issue and if representatives of the local authority come to my Department and if what is being considered meets the criteria, we will not be found wanting. The Senator also referred to the River Deel and Crossmolina which relate to the same issue.

Senator Conway asked about an application relating to Cloghauninchy. I am happy to say that the planning application has now been submitted and is due on 9 March. We hope to proceed with that scheme.

The Minister of State has five minutes left.

Those are all the questions that were put to me and I will finish there. I would be glad to update the House at any time that it wants me in here but I would say to every Member in the House that nobody is working more sincerely with the people of this country and every local authority to deliver on flooding issues than me. The issue is close to my heart and I know it is close to that of Senators. I want to deliver on it and will deliver on it if I am given the time. It is not easy to protect every house. When I announce catchment flood risk assessment and management, CFRAM, of 130 schemes, 48 major schemes will be announced. The rest of the schemes will have to be biannual, with another one or two added every year. It will not be easy to fix everything. I will have 80 schemes to be worked on over the next years for the people of this country. I will put every effort into delivering on them all.

That concludes statements on flooding. I ask the Deputy Leader to propose the suspension until 2.30 p.m.

I propose the suspension of the House until 2.30 p.m.

Sitting suspended at 1.30 p.m. and resumed at 2.30 p.m.