Speaking in Westmeath this week after meeting with residents who suffered from the severe flooding of 2009 and who are presently in a constant state of fear for their homes, businesses and farmlands Sinn Féin’s Midlands North West EU candidate, Matt Carthy, hit out at the Government for failing to attempt to secure funding for flooding and storm damage from the EU Solidarity Fund.
Carthy, who was in Westmeath at the invitation of local councillor Paul Hogan, also said that investment in flood defences would pay off through the creation of jobs in the short term and by saving substantial costs associated with flood damage in the long term.
“Government support and funding for flood victims, and those living in areas at risk of flooding, has been totally inadequate.
“The EU solidarity Fund in theory exists to help areas like the Shannon region and coastal areas which are affected by floods and natural disasters. But the thresholds are too low and the fund discriminates against rural areas where the financial cost of the damage is less than in cities because of the lack of investment in infrastructure in the regions.
“What we need to ensure is that at the centre of EU fund mechanisms like the Solidarity Fund is fairness and equal ability to access funds for rural areas.
“Minster Phil Hogan recently told the Dáil that the Irish government would not be applying for funding under the solidarity fund citing the fact that the flood and storm damage would not reach the required thresholds under the scheme.
“He failed to mention the fact that exceptions have been made to these requirements – as was the case with Austria in 2005.
“The simple fact is that this government is not standing up for Ireland in Europe. A strong case put forward may have succeeded but the government chose not to try.
“Minister Hogan also cited the fact that the fund was reduced last year. What he failed to tell us is what position the Irish Government took on the decision to reduce the Solidarity Fund?
“There are a number of clear steps that must be taken by the government.
“Investment in flood defences would create jobs, stimulate the local economy and in the long term save considerable amounts of money that are required to deal with the aftermath of flooding such as that experienced by Athlone in 2009.
“The Government needs to act to assist those homeowners and businesses who cannot access insurance.
“In relation to the EU, we must be making a case at Governmental level and through the Commission that the threshold for emergency aid from the EU fund be altered. This is something that I will be pressing for.”