As the previous speaker said, in rural parts of Ireland and in towns such as Athlone, Ballinasloe and Athleague, throughout most of Galway and in County Clare down to the mouth of the Shannon, people are holding their breath because they do not know what will happen in the next few days. Schools have been closed all week in various parts of the west. There are a number of issues we must examine, including what is happening in county councils. In most areas the number of outdoor staff who carry out the water cuttings on roads has been reduced by 60% over the past ten years.
This country appears to be the greatest country in the world for telling people how they cannot do something. Whenever somebody tries to do something positive, they are blocked. The Shannon, Suck and most rivers in this country are blocked with silt. I spoke to a person yesterday who has a canoe on the Suck. Two months ago the person failed to get through part of the river due to the amount of silt in it. When somebody tries to do something on their land or in a river in these parts of the country, five different bodies try to put obstacles before them. They will talk about EU legislation, most of which was signed by this Government in 2011, regarding environmental impact assessments, EIAs, and appropriate assessments. The National Parks and Wildlife Service is the biggest villain of them all. Last year there was a flood on a road in Galway and the road was opened and closed five times. In the end the Garda had to intervene because one arm of the State was blocking another. We saw what happened to people in England two years ago when a number of rivers flooded. However, England, unlike this country, took the bull by the horns. People there decided to take out the dredging machines and to carry out the required work.
Many people do not understand that in rural Ireland we have a managed landscape. It is a landscape where one must manage drains and rivers. However, we are blocked from that because of all the bureaucracy. The Tánaiste spoke about spending €400 million on flood relief. I am aware of a town where €280,000 was allocated for that. In fact, the job itself cost €100,000. People in suits called consultants and engineers spent the rest of the money. We must cut down on this. Is the Tánaiste prepared to put more outdoor workers in place? I travelled around the roads last weekend with a sled containing signs which the council gave me to erect on roads where there were floods in case cars would be destroyed. There were not enough outdoor staff to do it. In addition, the Government should allow ordinary people in communities to get involved and help, because councils are afraid to tell them. Is the Tánaiste willing to put more outdoor staff in place? Will she get the OPW to spend its budgets and not return them to the Exchequer? There was a €15 million underspend this year and a large underspend last year.
Is the Tánaiste prepared to get rid of the bureaucracy in terms of the cost of consultants? I attended a Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine event in Castlerea, County Roscommon, this week and heard there was nothing we could do. There was a group of consultants present and I asked them what we could do and whether they had a report. They said they had but the funds were not available to solve it. Is the Tánaiste prepared to stand with England? The opportunity is coming. Instead of telling their businesses how to vote, will the Government stand with England and change the EU and its bureaucracy? We have the habitats directive and the water framework directive, but one is colliding with the other. Will the Government introduce emergency legislation to overrule the bureaucracy in this country in order that we can let water flow in rivers?
People will do it in their own areas if they are given the opportunity. Will the Government overrule the EU bureaucracy and the bullshit that is coming from it?