REPORTS already completed as part of the regeneration plan for St Mary’s Park could see the area fast-tracked for flood defences, according to the Minister for Housing Jan O’Sullivan.
She said that while the OPW estimated it could take three years to steer such schemes through planning, it was her hope that King’s Island - parts of which were devastated by flooding on February 1 - could be attended to sooner.
OPW staff and the responsible minister Brian Hayes met with city officials in the presence of Minister O’Sullivan last week.
It was “too early to say definitively” when a major flood protection scheme for St Mary’s could begin.
“It would be costly and we will have to see what is feasible. The regeneration plan has already done a good bit of work on the environmental aspects and they have promised to share what they have done with the OPW. So we might be able to move a scheme forward in Limerick more quickly than in other parts of the country where they have to start all that work from scratch.
“It is not very comforting but the OPW said these schemes normally take three years to come through the planning process. But we think we could do it faster in Limerick because of the work Regeneration has already done,” commented Minister O’Sullivan.
Some houses that had been flooded last weekend, she said, were due to be demolished under regeneration in any event and the overall programme may have to be revisited in light of recent events.
“I think the plan will have to be looked at again just to make sure that it is in accordance with what we now know the river can do,” she said.
And as the relief effort continues in St Mary’s Park, the minister stressed that exceptional needs payments being made available by the Department of Social Protection were not just available to welfare recipients.
“When Joan Burton was here on Saturday, she said that the upper limit of her fund is an income of €70,000 a year.
“There is a bit of a misconception that you can only get funding if you are on social welfare but for this particular emergency fund, the upper limit is at €70,000 so it pretty much covers everyone who was affected by flooding.”
While small amounts of money had already been paid for food and clothing, residents were filling out forms for community welfare officers to replace more valuable items - such as furniture and appliances - that were lost to the waters.
“As time goes by, people will get a better sense of what they need to replace and the fund will be there to support them,” said the minister.