Fianna Fáil TD for Laois Offaly, Barry Cowen, has called on the Minister of State at the Office of Public Works, Brian Hayes TD, to establish a protocol to open flood gates when weather warnings are issued.

Deputy Cowen commented: “Summer flooding along the Shannon has become more frequent and severe in recent years but it has been even more damaging in the last number of weeks. The Shannon traditionally floods between October and April so farmers rely heavily on dry summers for production of silage and grazing ground.

“This year the increased rainfall has meant that some silage bearing ground is being used for grazing which means that winter feed is lost. Some farmers are using winter feed for cattle which should be grazing and other farmers have between 50 and 80 acres under water.

“All this could have been avoided. The bodies in charge of operating sluice gates have no set rules by which the gates would be opened. In fact, Minister Hayes has confirmed that there is no official protocol in place obliging the various authorities to open gates having been issued with a weather warning. Why wait for damage to be done before acting?

“We have seen with the devastation in Cork that homes and businesses can be destroyed in a couple of hours. We need to be able to act decisively with weather warnings and an agreed protocol in consultation with the IFA needs to be put in place in the Shannon Callows, which directly affects a lot of farmers in Offaly.

“I am also calling on the Minister to ensure that a compensation package be put in place for farmers that have been adversely affected by the recent severe weather.”