Emergency works – even in priority habitats – can be pursued when people and homes are at risk of flooding, according to the European environment officials.
Planned schemes in designated areas to alleviate flooding risk should be pursued through the IROPI (Imperative Reasons for Overriding Public Interest) mechanism in the birds and habitats directive – which has granted permission to all but one project in two decades.
The meeting between an Irish delegation of Irish MEPs, TDs and farming representatives with four top officials in the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Environment has injected a fresh sense of confidence in local politicians to solve the flooding problem across the country, claimed Roscommon–South Leitrim TD and Glinsk resident Michael Fitzmaurice.
The Irish authorities have adopted an overly cautious approach when it comes to interpreting the European legislation – which has led to the devastating floods due to the lack of remedial work.
“What we’ve been told in Europe and what we’re told here are two different stories to be quiet honest,” he insisted.
“I’m confident that whoever is in government, if they’ve the drive to do it, will be able to do it – straight up, no ifs, buts about it.”
The leader of the turfcutters, who has been at loggerheads with the authorities over a ban on cutting turf in designated bogs, said he was very blunt with the officials the delegation met.
“I was talking about turloughs and how we in put in a drain from one to another in Roscommon to save a house in a SAC (Special Area of Conservation). They as much as said ‘what about’ – for the simple reason we weren’t draining the turlough dry, we weren’t going to the middle of the turlough, we were relieving the excess water at the edges,” he explained.
“They made it very clear – in an emergency you have to do whatever works necessary, you drive on; if you’re doing a plan for the area, yes go through an IROPI and in 20 years just one project has been turned down across Europe.”
The TD and former Galway County Councillor presented the Europeans with a document circulated from the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to local authorities in 2011 which stated that “every effort should be made to avoid recourse to IROPI as planners should avoid the IROPI process as this is a legally difficult, expensive, lengthy and complex process, with no guarantee of a successful outcome and with a serious risk of legal challenges”.
He said they totally rejected that official assessment and pointed out that many countries, including the UK, had successfully negotiated the process.
“They brought up the Outer City Bypass and said if Galway had gone down the IROPI process it would have been completed by now,” Deputy Fitzmaurice stated.
The next step being pursued by the delegation is to bring over the four officials to face the Oireachtas environment committee with executives from the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and the Office of Public Works (OPW) and bring clarity to the flooding crisis – hopefully before the next general election is called.
“That way everyone in Ireland can hear in black and white what’s been said. I know all too well everytime you put a shovel in the ground they try and stop you.”
The Commission also stated that the EU Solidarity fund could be applied for and that Regional Funds could also be used to alleviate or mitigate the risk of flooding.
Voice of ‘Big O’ reflects on four decades
From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The daytime voice of Big O Taxis is celebrating four decades in the role – and she has no plans to hang up her headset any time soon.
Roisin Freeney decided to seek a job after staying at home to mind her three children for over a decade. It was 1981 when she saw an advert in the Connacht Sentinel for a dispatch operator.
The native of Derry recalls that the queue for the job wound its way past Monroe’s Tavern from the taxi office on Dominick Street.
“There was a great shortage of work back then. I nearly had a heart attack when I saw the line of people. My then husband who was giving me a lift in never thought I’d get the job, he was driving on past and I said, let me off.
“I got it because I worked as a telephonist in the telephone exchange in Derry. But I was terrified starting off because I hadn’t been in the work system for so long.”
Back then Big O Taxis had only 25 drivers and just a single line for the public to book a cab.
“We had an old two-way radio, you had to speak to the driver and everybody could listen in. It was easy to leave the button pressed when it shouldn’t be pressed. People heard things they shouldn’t have – that’s for sure,” laughs Roisin.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of Róisín’s story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.
Baby boom puts strain on Galway City secondary schools
From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A baby boom in the late 2000s has left parents of sixth class pupils in Galway City scrambling to find a secondary school place for their children next September – with over 100 children currently facing the prospect of rejection from city schools.
The Department of Education is now rushing to address the issue and confirmed to the Galway City Tribune this week that it was fully aware of increasing pressure and demand on city schools
Local councillor Martina O’Connor said there were 100 more children more than there were secondary school places for next year, and warned that this would put severe pressure on schools to increase their intake numbers.
“This will put a lot of pressure on schools because they will have been working out the number of teachers and what resources they would need in October or November last year and they could be facing a situation where they will be asked to take an additional eight or 10 students.
“There would normally be a small excess – maybe two or three – but this year, it’s over 100. There is a bigger number of children in sixth class this year and there will be the same issue for the next few years,” said the Green Party councillor.
A Department spokesperson said while there were capacity issues, factors other than numbers could be at play, adding that there were approximately 1,245 children in the city due to move onto secondary school in September.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.
GMIT warns partying students they are delaying return to campus
From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Partying students have been told their actions have impacted GMIT’s plans to re-start practical classes on campus – and Gardaí are monitoring the city’s bus and train stations to catch those breaking the 5km travel restriction by returning home for the weekend.
College authorities said the current “extremely serious outbreak” of Covid-19 among students in Galway City was caused by a small minority who are “moving and mixing between different households”.
Following a meeting with Gardaí last week, GMIT contacted all students to clarify that because there are no ‘onsite’ classes, there should be no need to travel for educational purposes.
“The Gardaí have notified us that there will be checks at the bus and train stations to implement the 5km travel rule, as well as checkpoints on the roads, and that fines will be given for any non-compliance with this rule,” students were told.
In a separate communication issued this week, the college’s Covid Officer appealed to students to abide by the rules.
“This outbreak has had an impact on our plans with regard to return to onsite practical work, with consequences for all students.
“We are appealing to all students to comply with all Covid restrictions and in doing so, to help ensure that those students who have to return to onsite practical work can do so,” the email read.
Many students from outside the city have opted to stay in their accommodation for access to better broadband.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story and more coverage of Covid figures and vaccinations, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.