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'Government should have the final say on River Shannon water levels, not the ESB'

Fianna Fáil has a private member’s bill in the Dáil today calling for more flood protections.

Flood scenes in Athlone, 2009.
Flood scenes in Athlone, 2009.

REMOVING THE ESB’s total control over the water levels of the River Shannon has been proposed by Fianna Fáil.

The private member’s bill on flooding aims to delete certain sections of the Electricity Supply Amendment Act 1934 and give the government the “final say” on water levels, according to Fianna Fáil’s spokesperson on flooding, Eugene Murphy.

During times of flooding, it is common for the ESB to give notification that it is to increase the flow of water in areas of the Shannon, often at the Parteen Weir.

Murphy told TheJournal.ie that his party’s call for action follows numerous representations being made by homeowners along the Shannon who have suffered from flooding over the last decade.

Fianna Fáil condemned the administrative and structural issues it said are hindering the effective management of water levels along the River Shannon.

27/11/2009. Midwest Floods. The ESB has confirmed it is to release more water from Parteen Weir.In a statement, the company said they'll be increasing the levels released throughout the morning by up to 8%.The extra water could increase levels downstream Parteen Weir

The party is now calling on the government to ensure there are no statutory impediments to regulating the water levels along the river.

“If we get this through it would drastically change the goal posts and give the power back to the government of the day, which would have the final say,” said Murphy.

Flood protection 

While he welcomed that the government have made some improvement announcements – such as the dredging of the Shannon and the new flood relief project for Cork city, which aims to protect over 2,000 properties from flood waters – he said more needs to be done.

While the Cork scheme is the largest flood relief scheme ever to be undertaken in Ireland, Murphy criticised that there is no timescale for the works.

The Roscommon-Galway TD said many people who were victims of the severe flooding last Christmas were dealing with the aftermath months later. He said works need to be done as soon as possible as people are living in fear of a repeat this year.

“Many could not return to their homes for up to five months,” he added.

4/1/2016 Severe Weather Conditions Source: Eamonn Farrell

“In comparison to other EU countries we are way, way behind. Urgent action is needed to protect homes, to protect families, to protect businesses – these people have gone through sheer hell, absolute hell, and we and the government have to tackle it,” said Murphy.

Murphy said he hasn’t had any indication from the ESB as to whether it will be accepted, but he said his proposals are in the interest of “the common good”.

“I will be pushing hard for this to be allowed to get to second stage,” explained Murphy, who said he has been garnering support from a number of TDs, including those from urban areas.

The Fianna Fáil TD explained that with the reality of climate change, flooding is no longer going to be an issue that only impacts on rural people.

“If the government want to start doing something about flooding, they need to back the bill and put these laws in place.”

As well as amending the ESB Act, Fianna Fáil are also calling for a single River Shannon agency to be established on a statutory basis.

A statement from the ESB to TheJournal.ie stated:

ESB notes the Motion on flooding scheduled to take place in Dáil Eireann… Under the current legislation, there are no statutory impediments to the control of levels on the Shannon. As an active member of the Government’s Shannon Flood Risk State Agency Co-Ordination Working Group, we will follow tomorrow evening’s Dáil debate with interest.

Read: ‘We couldn’t go home for five months after the floods. We’re in fear it could happen again’>

Read: The River Shannon is in for a major dredging>

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