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Government urged to do more on flooding impact as Varadkar visits stricken areas

The Irish Farmers Association said the Taoiseach’s visit had an element of “trying to close the stable door after the horse had bolted”.

The Taoiseach with Kevin Boxer Moran in Athlone today.
The Taoiseach with Kevin Boxer Moran in Athlone today.
Image: Niall Carson/PA Images

COMMUNITIES AND RESIDENTS living in the areas worst affected by flooding are continuing to battle the impact of rising river levels.

Torrential rain last night caused the river levels along the Shannon to grow and the Irish Farmers Association (IFA) has called on urgent action from the government given the impact these flood levels had on farmland. 

Met Eireann issued a status yellow snow and ice warning across Ireland from 6am on Tuesday to 9am on Wednesday.

Wintry showers, mainly of hail and sleet, are expected to become increasingly widespread tomorrow, leading to icy patches.

There are also warnings of snow in some parts of the country.

Flooding remains in Athlone in Co Westmeath and in Carrick-On-Shannon in Co Leitrim.

winter-weather-feb-24th-2020 Locals carry sand bags in Athlone Source: Niall Carson/PA Images

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar visited both towns to assess how the preventative measures put in place by local authorities have held back the flooding.

Varadkar was forced to defend the government’s flood defence plans following the major floods in 2009 and 2015.

“There is a lot of investment going into flood relief works, about 100 different projects are now under way across the country which will protect a lot of people from floods in the future,” he said.

“Also, what we are doing here is emergency management.

“As water comes downstream, places like Athlone are at risk. I want to thank the OPW (Office of Public Works), the local authorities, the fire brigade and everyone who has been helping out with this effort.”

He also said the Defence Forces will made available this week in rural areas.

The outgoing Minister of State for the Office of Public Works and Flood Relief Kevin “Boxer” Moran said the flooding has been a “tough challenge” for local people.

He added: “I am delighted the Taoiseach can see first hand the good work that has been done, not just by local authorities but also by the people of Athlone and the local farmers.

We are seeing rising flood levels and from talking to people up and down this area, while they are concerned, they are not alarming.
The plans put in place by local authorities have worked in the past and we hope they will work again.

“We are facing some very difficult situations at present. Rural Ireland has been very badly affected and it’s a very tough challenge. Water and fire are the hardest two things to combat.

“We have to look after people – flooding is becoming a huge issue.”

Varadkar faced claims from residents who say the preventative plans are not enough.

The Fine Gael leader said he understands their concerns and fears.

“There are lots of things happening, we have set aside a billion euro for flood relief works, there are 98 schemes under way including several in Athlone,” he added.

“We will do everything we can to protect as many properties and farms as possible.”

IFA president Tim Cullinan welcomed the fact that the Taoiseach visited some of the affected areas today, but added there was an element of “trying to close the stable door after the horse had bolted”.

“We need an immediate assessment of damage to determine losses and a financial aid package,” Cullinan said.

The fact that insufficient action has been taken to manage the River Shannon is a contributory factor in the current flooding crisis. I met farmers in Longford in the last week and they raised the problem of the levels in the River Shannon. With better monitoring, we could avoid some of the problems we have now

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