Sinn Féin’s attempt to remove crucial legislation that allows the OPW to provide critical maintenance to the country’s rivers is reckless in the extreme, a Fine Gael Senator has said.
Senator Tim Lombard said Sinn Féin wants to abolish the Arterial Drainage Act, which allows the Office of Public Works (OPW) to provide for the drainage and improvement of land and implement flood relief schemes to ensure cities, towns and villages are protected.
Senator Lombard said: “The public are by now aware that climate action doesn’t matter much to Sinn Féin, judging by their lack of policies and incoherence on crucial issues including emission targets around agriculture and transport.
“The party argues that the Arterial Drainage Act is no longer fit for purpose and that ceasing the works that it is responsible for would in fact benefit biodiversity and reduce the risk of flooding in our towns and villages.
“This is far from the truth, as without the schemes provided for under the Act, there would be an increased flood risk to 77 towns and villages and over 21,000 properties and nearly 2,500 km of roads.
“The Arterial Drainage Act gives power to the OPW to carry out works on waterways to ensure that surrounding land is not flooded. This work has been bolstered by significant investment through the Department of Agriculture in improving land drainage for food production.
“Sinn Féin’s Seanad spokesperson for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Lynn Boylan, believes that flood defences should be managed through a nature-based approach like “slow the flow” which would remove man-made flood defence infrastructure.
“This kind of thinking is reckless and would have huge consequences on agriculture and also one-off houses,and would put large swathes of land at increased risk of flooding. The legislation currently in place has alleviated the scourge of flooding for tens of thousands of people.
“The OPW must also carry out environmental and ecological assessments and stakeholder consultation before any flood-prevention works are carried out, which helps to mitigate potential environmental impacts on rivers and streams.
“In recent days, we have seen the devasting impact that flooding has had on businesses and homes in Cork and all efforts are being made by my colleagues in Government to ensure affected property owners are adequately supported.
“What is not helpful are hair-brained proposals from the largest opposition party, which would have a detrimental impact on flood relief schemes and the critical infrastructure that is needed across the island to protect our communities,” Senator Lombard concluded.