After a dismal January saw water levels along the Shannon creep upwards, Minister of State for the Office of Public Works (OPW ) and Flood Relief, Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran, has assured concerned citizens and political representatives that everything is being done to avoid further flooding in Athlone.
“We do not want to set alarm bells going yet,” Minister Moran told the Athlone Advertiser.
“Some members of the Oireachtas have been critical saying we have no plan. I can tell them that I don’t be sitting at home in my house looking out at it. We have a plan; we have met with local authorities; I have been talking to engineers; and I know from my visit to the council that they have a load of sandbags filled and the pumps are ready to go if they are required.”
Minister Moran’s words come as a response to Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Flooding, Eugene Murphy, who recently criticised the OPW for underspending on flood relief and requested an emergency Dáil debate on the issue.
“Since I went into office six months ago I can assure you that my office is spending money. We have 16 minor works schemes in five months put out. It would be no harm if Oireachtas members come to speak to me, my offices are always open, but nobody has come to speak to me,” Minister Moran added.
At the moment, a record 630 cubic metres of water per second are being released through Ardnacrusha and Parteen Weir. In 2015, the maximum released was 420 cubic metres per second.
Water levels are still two feet below their highest levels recorded in the winter of 2015/2016, and Minister Moran said that pumps are on standby at low-lying areas of Athlone, should they be needed.
Mayor Aengus O’Rourke has also assured residents of these areas that local authorities are adequately equipped to handle any flooding that may occur.
“I would have had much more cause for concern in previous years that I do this year,” the mayor said. “The experience of 2009 and 2015 will stand to us, and the services that are needed will be rolled out without delay in the case of a flooding incident.”