State itself ‘responsible for confusion that’s compounding’ farm flooding problems

Farmers “have come to the conclusion that it is the state agencies and legislation, both national and EU, that are most responsible for the frequency and extent of recent flooding problems”.

This was the message that the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA) had for Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works Patrick O’Donovan.

At a meeting with the minister of state, ICMSA president Pat McCormack said that the lack of commitment and direction at state level had led to a “plethora” of agencies, councils and bodies, “cancelling each other out or even working against each other”.

McCormack said that farmers and landowners throughout Ireland felt powerless as they watched multiple agencies all pursuing individual agendas without any semblance of an overall plan directed by a single authority.

The president added: “The ICMSA stressed the urgent need call for a single waterways authority to which all the other agencies, semi-states and local authorities involved must defer.

“We told Minister of State O’Donovan that it is impossible to formulate a strategy to deal with the much more frequent and increased scale of flooding if we have several agencies – often with conflicting aims and policies – all attempting to shape governmental response.

“We have been saying for over 20 years that we obviously need a single waterways authority and that authority must be given primacy.

“The others – and I’m specifically including the ESB here – should all be deferring to this single authority in terms of the ‘what, when where and how’ of flood planning and response,” he added.

The present system isn’t working and farmers are looking at massive damage – often lasting for weeks.

“It is indisputable that much of the damage here is down to the confusion caused by inter-agency rivalries and competing agendas.

“These agencies are usually state or semi-state, to the extent that confusion is the responsibility of the state itself and it has to be sorted out,” McCormack said.

Stressing that clear direction is needed in relation to flooding policy, the president concluded saying: “We need single authority, simplified bureaucracy, speeded-up response and sufficient resources if we’re to get on top of this recurring destruction and despair.”