Wednesday, 23 October 2002
Seanad Eireann Debate
Mr. Finucane: I am pleased the Minister of State is here. Coming from Wexford I am sure he is aware of the effects of tidal flooding in that location. There seems to be a constant problem of flooding in Foynes. The council has tried to alleviate some of the flooding in the upper part of Foynes in Colgrigg in recent times, a problem which will probably be resolved in time to come.
I am greatly concerned about tidal flooding. I grew up in Foynes where there was an embankment which acted as a protective mechanism if there was tidal flooding. With industrial progress the embankment was removed and many people in Foynes regret that. I remember in my younger days coming down the stairs in my home to find that the tide had overflowed and the water has risen to the level of two flights of the stairs. Since then our house and many others on the main street have been flooded. They were flooded once again last February.
Following a flood, there is usually a ritual of politicians and others saying that something will have to be done. There were high tides again in October. The concern among the community about flooding is remarkable. They live in great anxiety when high tides are anticipated. They are afraid of weather conditions. I have seen at first hand the havoc caused by flooding in houses and premises in Foynes. Many people cannot get insurance because the insurance industry will not tolerate claims for flood damage on a continual basis.
The Shannon Foynes Port Company, previously the Foynes Harbour Board, which operates in this area probably has a difficulty in regard to finances, if what I believe is true. A sum of money was allocated to Ringsend recently to resolve the flooding difficulty there which is related to the tides in Dublin Bay.
While Shannon Foynes Port Company and the other port companies are expected to operate as autonomous units, I raise this matter with the Minister for Communications, the Marine and Natural Resources because he has overarching responsibility for this area. I hope sufficient funding will be allocated to provide a tidal barrier in Foynes.
A port company exists with the co-operation of the community. The community in Foynes has been tolerant in other respects over the years. It has put up with a good deal of disturbance, heavy trucks parked outside houses and premises and the dust and other problems associated with the transport of products from a shipping port. These problems will probably be resolved in the near future to some degree as there is a new access road in Foynes.
I raised this matter on 22 July with the local council, recognising that Limerick County Council would not have a role in this matter. I met members of the board of works recently who investigated the drains in Foynes and indicated that they possibly would not have a role in this matter. This problem is the responsibility of Shannon Foynes Port Company. As a result of raising it on the Adjournment, I hope that something tangible will be done to ease the concerns of the community about this problem in Foynes. I look forward to the Minister of State's reply.
Minister of State at the Department of Communications, the Marine and Natural Resources (Mr. Browne): I thank the Senator for raising this issue. All State port companies are established under the Harbours Acts, 1996-2000, the statutory basis for their formation. Shannon Foynes Ports Company was formed in September 2000 following an amalgamation of the Shannon Estuary Ports Company and Foynes Port Company and operates as a commercial State port company under the Harbours Acts. The port company is statutorily responsible for the management, control, operation and development of the harbour as a commercial State port company.
Shannon Foynes Port Company must operate under a rigorous commercial mandate. The Minister is precluded from interfering in the day to day business of the port company, nor would it be appropriate for him to do so. The relationship between the Minister and the port companies is that of a shareholder with an independent board reporting to him in terms of corporate governance and effective use and management of State port assets.
My Department has sought a report from Shannon Foynes Port Company on the issue raised by the Senator. The position as advised by the port company is as follows. It is the view of the company's professional technical service that the recent flooding incidents are not the responsibility of the port company, nor is it the responsibility of the port company to introduce mitigation measures. However, the port company has entered into discussion with the local authority concerning the surface water drainage system and these discussions are ongoing. I have been advised that in the interest of good community relations, the port company has met with representatives of the local residents' committee.
The cause of the flooding, which has adversely affected Foynes village and is a source of great concern to residents and local business interests, has not been fully identified. Neither my Department nor the port company has a function in the matter, nor has the Department any funding available to assist. However, we will urge the port company to continue to assist the local authority in whatever way possible to identify the precise cause of the flooding.
I have asked Shannon Foynes Port Company to keep me and the Department advised as to developments. I would also welcome any information Senator Finucane has from his local knowledge or from representations that may have been made to him in the matter, which I would be pleased to make available to the port company.
I am very well aware of the flooding problems that exist in counties from time to time. We have had many problems in Wexford, particularly in my town of Enniscorthy. On every occasion that we received compensation it came from the Department of the Environment and Local Government. We will continue to assist in whatever way we can in that matter, but there seems to be some doubt as to where the flooding is being caused. We will keep the Senator informed as developments arise.
Mr. Finucane: I have given the Minister of State the benefit of my local knowledge. I am afraid the port company is doing a Pontius Pilate act on this issue. I will take this up with the local authority again – I intend to get to the bottom of this matter. It appears to me that the Shannon Foynes Port Company has a responsibility. It is a tidal problem.
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