IT will be the New Year before plans are put in place for flood defences in St Mary’s Park in Limerick, OPW Minister Simon Harris has said.
Residents have been left fearful of a repeat of last winter’s chaos when floods ripped through the Island Bank estate, with one saying: “We are the forgotten island”.
Almost eight months since a €9m application was made from City and County Council for flood defences in the area, Mr Harris visited the estate this Monday and promised action from the Office of Public Works (OPW).
“This is a concrete step forward for us,” he said. “The main thing for people to know is the funding is secure.”
He did not give a specific commitment to funding, but he said that plans for permanent flood defences will be in place by early next year.
The Wicklow TD announced the setting up of a steering group to oversee the design and delivery of the defences.
“This group will put a plan in place for a permanent set of flood defences which will go to public consultation as quickly as possible. I expect the steering group will meet in the next fortnight. Once the planning issues are addressed, the OPW will fund the scheme and provide all the technical assistance we can,” Mr Harris told reporters at City Hall.
Mr Harris then joined Finance Minister Michael Noonan on a tour of St Mary’s Park.
Speaking after, he said: “I have asked Limerick City Council to regularly inspect the sandbags to check from a technical point of view that they are as robust as possible, and if obvious breaches appear, to set about replacing them in the short term.”
He said he could understand people’s frustrations at a delay.
“There is a process that has to be followed in relation to planning,” he argued.
Although it appears the steering group will be non-political, Sinn Fein councillor Maurice Quinlivan has already made contact with council boss Conn Murray to be included, pointing to the fact he took almost 70% of the vote in St Mary’s Park.
He also called for members of the community to be selected.
Residents’ fears over delays
THERE are fears among residents that flooding could again devastate the area before any defences are put in place.
Eugene Collins, of nearby Sandmall, said: “It should have been done in the summer when it was quiet. It is a big fear among people”.
Ann Joyce, St Ita’s Street, criticised government, saying it was the first time they had visited since the devastating floods.
Calling for refurbishment of flood-damaged homes, she said: “Not one minister came here after the floods to see whether we were dead, alive or warm in our homes. They don’t care about people in Mary’s Park: we are the forgotten island.”