Henry Burns promises that IFA will dredge rivers if Government won’t

IFA presidential candidate Henry Burns has promised that farmers will dredge rivers this summer if action not taken by government agencies.

Speaking in Westmeath on Friday night, Burns said that if local authorities and the OPW don’t start cleaning waterways by midsummer, as IFA President he will put in place a project to support farmers do the work themselves.

“Taoiseach Enda Kenny said in January that it’s a matter of common sense. Promises have been made. If those promises are not honoured by mid-summer, if I’m president, IFA will support landowners and farmers to get the work underway themselves in a positive, constructive and carefully managed way.

“Enda Kenny clearly said – and I’ll quote him “that the directives, both in terms of habitat and water, do not prevent dredging and do not ban dredging. But it’s necessary to inform them that works are going to be carried out”.

“We know that Brussels has told the Irish National Flood Forum and others that it’s possible to clear silt and anything disturbing the flow of water once the riverbed is not disturbed.”

He said that that announcement must be made to the Commission and if it’s not and work doesn’t start by midsummer, he would, as IFA President, put a programme in place to support farmers to do it.

Burns promised a systematic programme, which would see IFA, in conjunction with landowners and victims, provide environmental, mechanical and safety training for farmers wishing to dredge waterways.

“People I’ve spoken to in flooded areas have expressed a concern that they’ll be forgotten again. Having dealt with flooding on my own farm over the years, I don’t need to be convinced of the need to take urgent action this summer. Right is on our side,” he said.

“In the meantime, the Department of Agriculture must introduce a compensation scheme for farmers suffering continuing losses because they can’t access or re-establish grassland and crops because of flooding.”

Burns also said the position of viability of Ardnacrusha must be considered and called for the facility to be closed, at least for winter months.

“We simply can’t ask people to live with the threat of that happening all over again next year and the year after.”