BY JACKIE KEOGH
MEMBERS of Skibbereen Floods Committee have appealed to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform to sign off on the town’s flood relief scheme before the election.
Labour TD, Michael McCarthy, and Fine Gael TD, Noel Harrington, arranged for a three-man delegation from the Skibbereen Floods Committee to meet Minister Brendan Howlin TD in Government buildings before Christmas.
Since then, the threat to the town posed by Storm Frank, which did some damage to homes on Mill Road and some town centre premises, has added a further element of urgency to the Committee’s pleas.
The Committee members impressed upon the minister the need to ensure that the Skibbereen Flood Relief Scheme is given top priority in 2016.
They appealed to him not to delay over the findings of an assessment of the scheme’s environmental impact statement – which is required under the terms of a new EU directive – and to sign off on the project before the election so that work can start in mid-2016.
Deputy Michael McCarthy acknowledged that the process, relating to finalising the flood relief scheme for Skibbereen, has been ‘achingly slow,’ and said: ‘It is imperative that work begins in 2016.’
He pointed out that the Government has pledged to spend as much money in the next five years as it has done in the previous 20 to make up for chronic underinvestment in flood defence measures.
To meet these targets, the sum of €430m has been earmarked for flood defences between now and 2021, compared with the €410m that was invested over the last two decades.
Deputy McCarthy praised the work of the Skibbereen Floods Committee saying: ‘They have done everything they can to assist in finding a solution to the flooding problem in the area and I hope their hard work will soon pay off.’
Cathal O’Donovan, secretary of the floods committee, Michael Thornhill and Mike O’Brien travelled to Dublin to meet the minister and to attend the launch of the Joint Committee of Environment, Culture and Gaeltacht’s report on flooding and property insurance.
Mr Thornhill told The Southern Star that ‘Skibbereen has suffered long enough’.
‘The time has come to put an end to this protracted process, and start work on this badly needed flood relief scheme,’ he said.