OPW failure on river maintenance leaves towns and land across Mayo under water — Calleary

Mayo Fianna Fáil TD Dara Calleary has slammed the Office of Public Works for failing to maintain rivers in the county. Deputy Calleary said: “Flooding in Mayo is now becoming a regular occurrence. People across the country are talking about the floods of 2009, but the fact of the matter is that it is only three weeks since Crossmolina was under water. People there barely had enough time to clean up their homes and businesses before Storm Desmond hit. On Saturday water levels were so high that it reached the shoulders of the volunteers and workers who were on the ground.

“The scale of these floods is frightening, yet for the past five years the Government has sat on its hands and done nothing to address it," Dep Calleary added. "Information received by Fianna Fáil reveals that the Government is actually running a €14.5m underspend on flood relief schemes this year. Why is the OPW refusing to sanction essential works? We are all awaiting major capital projects but simple jobs such as cleaning rivers and lifting debris from them are not being done. It seems the OPW attaches more importance to pearl mussels, or other forms of marine life and animals, than to people. This has to change.

“I welcome the announcement of a compensation fund for those businesses affected by the floods, however ministers need to ensure that that money begins to flow without delay. The exact details of this scheme must be announced as soon as possible. For most businesses this four-week period pays for the next three months. This is the time of year when they get the chance to get back in shape after some difficult trading conditions. They are not going to be able to do that now. There also needs to be provision for farmers contained in it. Acres of land across Co Mayo are submerged under water, and a great deal of fodder and winter feed has been washed away. It will take a long time for that land to recover and be viable once again and farmers should be compensated for lost stock.

“We also need to ensure that Department of Social Protection staff are on the ground in Crossmolina and those other communities that have been directly affected, and that the Humanitarian Assistance Scheme is made as widely available as possible.

“With more rain predicted over the coming days, council management must ensure that there continues to be staff and equipment on the ground to deal with the situation. The damage that has been done and that could be done is extraordinary. In Ballina we are living from tide to tide this week. We need solid contingency plans in the short term, and the OPW and the Government cannot afford to push this problem down the line any longer.”

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