Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice says his stance on dredging of the River Shannon has been vindicated following comments last Friday by Sean Canney, Minister for State at Office of Public Works.
Deputy Fitzmaurice says he has consistently maintained for the past number of years that dredging and maintenance work on the Shannon and its tributaries was essential in the battle to prevent flooding.
Now, after Minister Canney and state agencies – through the Shannon Flood Risk Group – accepted that “strategic maintenance works” must be carried out on Ireland’s longest river, Deputy Fitzmaurice is feeling vindicated.
“After two years of explaining to all the stakeholders that the River Shannon and its tributaries needed dredging and other work to be carried out to prevent future flooding, it is now heartwarming to finally hear on Friday evening that the Commission who are reporting on the Shannon and the Minister have now fully accepted that this work must be carried out and that the pinch points have to be removed. I welcome Minister Canney’s statement to that effect.
“I sat in radio and TV studios all over this country over the past few years with various people who had authority over the Shannon and they kept saying that the river did not need to be dredged but I stuck to my guns right through. It was always my contention that not only the Shannon, but also the River Suck and all its tributaries have to have dredging and maintenance work carried out. The authorities have now admitted that if they don’t do something in this regard the Shannon will be blocked within 20 years.
“We have to be realistic and honest with people. This work will not be done overnight.
“I note that the Minister has said that if he has to go to Europe to discuss this issue he will do that in case of any environmental concerns. I was in the EU dealing with this issue myself and they made it very clear that if you have a proper management plan for a river and that plan includes dredging or maintenance that they do not have a problem with that.
“This is the first step and the first glimpse of hope and we have to capitalise on this and drive it forward because the Shannon and all its tributaries have to be prioritised now.
“One thing I do not want to see is a list of problems being put in front of the OPW by bodies like the Inland Fisheries. I have seen the derogation document that Roscommon County Council received in relation to the situation at Ballinaheglish and the River Jiggy, and the amount of different stipulations that there are before you are allowed to dig are intolerable and I will be asking Minister Canney to ensure that a lot of this red tape and codswallop is cut out.”