January 24: Learning hard lessons means listening too

Whistleblowers are rarely popular, until vindicated by events – after which they can go from pariah to hero. Those who dare to question authority and demand higher standards from state agencies are easily dismissed by the people are seeking to call to account. However, every decent society needs people who are prepared to ask awkward questions and come to conclusions that might be unpalatable to some. In writing his new book, The Limerick Flood of 2014, Martin Kay has done local life a service. His work on behalf of the flood victims of King’s Island, whose lives were turned upside down almost one year ago, has been considerable.

Whistleblowers are rarely popular, until vindicated by events – after which they can go from pariah to hero. Those who dare to question authority and demand higher standards from state agencies are easily dismissed by the people are seeking to call to account. However, every decent society needs people who are prepared to ask awkward questions and come to conclusions that might be unpalatable to some. In writing his new book, The Limerick Flood of 2014, Martin Kay has done local life a service. His work on behalf of the flood victims of King’s Island, whose lives were turned upside down almost one year ago, has been considerable.

Climate change is affecting us all, but few of us have a detailed understanding of the underlying factors and forces. The man who lives on top of a hill looks at climate change differently to the resident whose house is built on a flood plain.

Mr Kay does not pull his punches. “None of us knows what this winter or the next, will bring,” he writes, urging a more pro-active and interventionist approach from the local authority. He accuses Limerick City and County Council of viewing climate change “as a problem to be managed behind closed doors and passed out to consultants in the traditional way”.

During the past year, the Leader has given Mr Kay the space to ask hard questions about the level of preparedness – or more specifically the lack of it – which he believes undermined the flood response this time last year. To say the least, we have not been overwhelmed with answers from officialdom – and neither has the author.

While some may question Mr Kay’s conclusions and regard his criticisms as unfair, what they should not do is ignore the comprehensive body of work that he has assembled. Lessons must always been learned from the kind of calamity that befell the people of King’s Island on the first day of February, 2014. That requires taking on board the most robust of views from those seeking to understand what went wrong – and why.