The President of ICMSA, Mr. John Comer, has described the decision of the Government not to proceed with a statutory single waterways authority and to instead set up a ‘co-ordination group’ to implement flood management infrastructure as very disappointing, a missed opportunity and a recipe for continued confusion on the question on ‘who can do what’ as regards actual day-to-day management of the state’s rivers and waterways. Mr Comer said that for whatever reason the Government appeared to have lost its nerve on the central question around the need for a single powerful agency assuming full responsibility and resorted to the much less decisive forum of ‘a co-ordination group’. In doing so, Mr Comer noted, they had ‘bottled’ the water test and nitpicking disagreements between state agencies will inevitably lead to long delays in implementation of flood prevention measures.
Mr Comer welcomed the practical help offered through the various schemes and funds and he particularly praised the decision to include farm family homes under the Humanitarian Aid scheme as well as the Fodder Replacement and Hardship Recognition schemes. It was essential that all fodder damaged by flooding was replaced and that the Hardship Recognition Scheme took into account the damage done to farm buildings and farm income losses suffered.
No-one doubted the Government’s sincere sympathy, he noted, what was lacking, however, was some sense that they understood that it was simply not possible to imagine that, in the case of the River Shannon, some 60-odd agencies could agree on an agenda and priorities without engaging in precisely the kind of bureaucratic squabbling that everyone knew was contributing to the problem and certainly not helping towards any solution. In that context, it was incumbent upon the Government to see the bigger picture and bring finality and clarity to a confused situation through the setting up of a single statutory agency to which all other parties reported and to whom all other parties deferred.
In this, the most important respect, the Government had, unfortunately, failed.
Ends. 6 January 2016
John Comer, 087-2057846
Cathal MacCarthy, 087-6168758
ICMSA Press Office