Fianna Fáil General Election candidate for Galway East Cllr. Anne Rabbitte has slammed the Government and the Office of Public Works for dragging its heels on flood relief plans and says the catastrophic floods which hit Loughrea, Portumna, Athenry and Craughwell were the direct result of the OPW’s inaction and lack of engagement.

Cllr. Rabbitte explained, “I have been warning about the seriousness of this situation for the last number of months and have been calling on the Office of Public Works and Minister Simon Harris to engage with Galway County Council to ensure that a concrete flood relief plan can be drawn up.  Councillors have been forced to work with draft maps for the past 7 years and have been unable to complete a workable plan while the OPW stonewalled requests for official maps and refused to attend meetings with the Council.  This blatant disdain for the Council and the people of Galway has now resulted in homes and businesses across the county being washed out once more.  This severe flooding has been predicted time and time again but the OPW has obstructed progress at every stage.

“What we saw over the weekend was appalling. Main roads and acres of land were completely submerged as Storm Desmond swept through the county.  Due to the lack of a concrete flood plan the Council was left with no engineers and very few workers on the ground to deal with the situation.  There was no signage or emergency lighting and if it weren’t for the outstanding work of the Fire Service in Portumna, Athenry and Loughrea, the conditions would have been even more treacherous.  I would also like to pay tribute to the Gardaí in Craughwell who took charge of the situation and ensured that diversions were set up and that people were kept out of danger.

“It is heartbreaking to see people in East Galway having to deal with flooding once again, when it could have been prevented by a concrete flood plan.  Families have had their livelihoods and personal belongings devastated once more.  How many times does this have to happen before the Government takes action? We badly need these flood defence systems in place but the OPW has refused to play ball. We have two Government TDs here propping up the Government and delivering what? The OPW has had plenty of time since the floods in 2009 to put workable plans in place – in fact in some areas, such as Peterswell, residents have been waiting for a credible flood plan since 1995.

“Now we have Ciaran Cannon promising €6m euro in funding for the Dunkellin flood relief scheme, only weeks before the election.  This is too little too late – he has been in Government for 5 years and has failed to secure any funding to date, now at the last minute he starts making commitments.  If he was genuinely interested in solving the problem he would ensure action on the ground now.  We urgently need more people on the ground to get us through this difficult period.  More rain is forecast tonight and over the next few days and the situation in Galway will only get worse.

“It is time that the Council was facilitated in drawing up and implementing a credible flood relief system.  I don’t think it’s acceptable that a Government department can stand in the way of this.  East Galway is simply not on this Government’s radar.  That has to change.  We need our flood relief systems prioritised and I will continue to fight to ensure that this is achieved”.