‘The Government must start dredging the River Shannon’

The Government must immediately start spending money on dredging the River Shannon, according to the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association Rural Development Chairman, Seamus Sherlock.

Sherlock was speaking following a meeting with the Minister of State for the Office of Public Works, Sean Canney, in which they discussed managing the Shannon waterways.

Environmental objections cannot be allowed take precedence and destroy the livelihoods of farming communities.

“ICSA has implored upon Minister Canney the importance of managing the weirs along the Shannon and also the power station at Ardnacrusha to keep Shannon levels right.

“It is unacceptable that the livelihoods of farmers are in the hands of the ESB. It is also essential that weirs are managed proactively with a view to keeping water levels right to minimise flooding risk,” he said.

The ICSA delegation, which included Roscommon Chairman Ger Grehan, Westmeath Chairman Dan Lynam and General Secretary Eddie Punch, underlined the need for investment in action rather than reports at this point.

The commitment of the Government to spend €430m on the flooding issue and the commitment of the Minister to finding a solution to these issues was also welcomed by the ICSA.

Meanwhile, a single authority is needed to manage the Shannon, according to the Roscommon ICSA Chairman.

The process of getting work agreed and done is being paralysed by committees and too many objectors.

“We simply have to get moving and this not going to happen without an authority to call the shots,” Grehan said.

The meeting also discussed issues such as the possibility of relocation in some cases where flooding is an issue, with the ICSA accepting that some houses and sheds are built in vulnerable zones.

However, the farming organisation argued that some of this is a consequence of the traditional approach by planning authorities to put houses into the lowest hole around.

There are instances where houses have been built in a vulnerable area despite higher ground being readily available on adjacent land, this has sometimes been because of an over obsession with visual impact, the ICSA has said.

Both Grehan and Lynam raised specific issues around the farms hit most severely by flooding last winter in counties Roscommon, Leitrim and Longford.

The ICSA intends to meet local authorities in the coming weeks on some of these issues.