Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Aodhán raising the issue of the Dublin floods in Dáil Éireann

Aodhán: “I share the anger expressed already and also express my condolences to the families who have lost family members. I will limit my comments to the emergency relief fund and its potential. I understand the complications that might be involved in who oversees and administers it. Ultimately, that is a decision for the Government.

“I ask the Ministers to focus on the central issue that most concerns me for the future, house insurance. Deputy Finian McGrath and I were in Donnycarney this morning. I was in Clontarf last night and residents in Artane were on the telephone to me all day today. Since the Wad River has burst its banks on previous occasions the insurance companies are now refusing to insure homes in the Donnycarney area. Those houses are de facto worthless. One cannot sell one’s house if one cannot get home insurance because a potential buyer cannot get a mortgage if they cannot get house insurance. The houses are worthless and the owners are liable for all the work that must be undertaken in those homes. Families not only have the emotional trauma of having to move out for the couple of months required to fix things again, but there is also the huge financial heartache.

“The city council has let them down time after time. Although moneys have been provided by both the previous Government and this Government for the works to be undertaken, people are still waiting for those works to be carried out. Meanwhile, they are left exposed to the elements. Today, women, children and families are in floods of tears because now they must bear the financial cost. I have a direct question for the Minister. Those families are financially liable because, through no fault of theirs, they have no home insurance. They have been left high and dry by the insurance companies. Can we find a mechanism to support them at this time? They must keep an eye on the skies every day of their lives until the next flood, which is inevitably only months away unless those essential works are carried out.”

Deputy Brian Hayes: “On the last question raised by Deputy Ó Ríordáin about floods and insurance, I have visited many parts of the country and spoken to many communities. A number of them have seen important work carried out by the local authority or the OPW but they still cannot get insurance. I have already met with the Irish Insurance Federation and I hope to be in a position to announce a new protocol over the next month which will give a measure of better communication with the Irish Insurance Federation and the insurance companies, whereby they will know the work we have done and will take account of that. Where the State invests colossal sums of money it is utterly wrong that the insurance companies do not provide the insurance cover.

“The Deputy spoke about people being unable to get insurance cover. That is a very real issue for communities throughout the country. My officials are in discussion with the Insurance Federation to see whether we can make some progress on this issue because I am determined that we have a much better means of communication between our Department and the insurance companies that they understand that funding is being put in place.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Statement from Aodhán Ó Ríordáin TD and Cllr Jane Horgan Jones re: Clontarf Flood Defences Meeting

Statement from Aodhán Ó Ríordáin TD and Cllr Jane Horgan Jones re: Clontarf Flood Defences Meeting

There are new developments in the Clontarf Flood Defences campaign every day, and we are endeavouring to keep you abreast of them as they happen. Thank you to everyone who has contacted us so far with your views – your correspondence on this issue is always very welcome and helpful.

As many of you will already know, City Council officials met with representatives from the Clontarf Business Association (CBA) and Clontarf Residents’ Association (CRA) last Friday evening. Local councillors were also in attendance. At this meeting, the Council officials outlined some changes to the defences that could potentially be made to address the real concerns raised by people in our community about the flood defence works.

· No clear plans or concrete proposals were put on the table by the Council on Friday, so there is no question of anything being accepted or rejected at this stage.
· Cllr Jane Horgan-Jones specifically said at the end of the meeting that nobody should be asked to indicate their position on these proposed changes now, and that wider and further consultation would be needed before any clear positions could be taken by the stakeholders involved, including the CRA, the CBA and public representatives.

As your local Labour Party representatives, we have received many emails over the past two days inquiring about our position after Friday’s meeting. Some local representatives spoke to the media afterwards indicating they would support ‘the revised plan’.

· This is not our position. Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. Right now, there is no ‘revised plan’ in existence, so talking of accepting or rejecting the suggested changes is premature in the extreme and, in our view, undermines the whole process.
· We did not speak to the media after Friday for precisely this reason. Neither of us has any interest in making political hay out of this issue. We are happy to support the CRA and the CBA in their engagement with the process that is currently ongoing and then to evaluate the results, along with Clontarf residents, to see if the Council can propose an acceptable solution to this crisis. If the Council cannot provide such a solution, then no tactic is off the table.

Neither of us represented this area when the planning process regarding these works was in train. Planning permission was granted in July 2008. Aodhan was first elected to represent Clontarf in 2009, while Jane became a councillor in April 2011. However, we are now working extremely hard every day to find the solution that residents all want – one that protects our homes from flooding but also preserves the amenity of our prom.

Please keep in touch with us on this issue.

Aodhán and Jane

Friday, October 21, 2011

Welcoming Scoil Neasain's 6th Class to Leinster House

It is always a privilege to be able to welcome students and teachers from across the constituency of Dublin North Central to the Oireachtas.

Most recently, it was a real pleasure to be able to bring the boys and girls of Scoil Neasain's 6th class around Leinster House and for them to witness proceedings in the Chamber up close and personal.

Should any class or school wish to come in and visit the Houses then please don't hesitate to give me a call and I will go about arranging a tour.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

VOTE YES on Judicial Pay Referendum

In 2009 the salaries of public servants were reduced twice by way of two emergency pieces of legislation. The judiciary, by virtue of article 35.5 of the Constitution were excluded from these measures, placing the judiciary in an invidious position vis a vis others paid from the public purse. Many judges made voluntary waivers of their salary in line with these reductions.

The referendum on judges pay allows the Oireachtas to reduce judicial pay in the context of general salary reductions. It seeks to preserve and reaffirm the important principle of judicial independence.

The principle articulated in Article 35.5 is an important one. Unilateral reductions in judicial pay could be perceived as an attack on their independence by Government. The new article 35.5 allows that when- and only when- reductions have been made or are in future made by law to public service pay in the public interest, the Oireachtas can make proportionate reductions to judges' remuneration.

For more information visit

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

VOTE YES for proper public inquiries

In each EU country national parliaments have the power to conduct full inquiries. In Ireland, since the 2002 Supreme Court decision in the Abbeylara case, that is not the position here. This is the issue that the people of Ireland are being asked to change in the forthcoming referendum.

The case for allowing parliamentary committees to conduct full inquiries is a sensible one. Parliamentary committees have a central role in overseeing the performance of our public administration. Parliamentary committees will prove less expensive than tribunals or other inquiry methods. Prior to the Abbeylara decision we already held successful inquiries like the DIRT inquiry.

Labour Minister Brendan Howlin has already published a Bill which explains how the process will work if the people pass this amendment.

Our aim is to have inquiries that are fair, effective and efficient. If approved by you, they will be an important tool in our armoury to ensure our public administration is fully accountable.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Raising the Clontarf Flood Defences under Topical Issues

ROLLING UPDATES: Clontarf Flood Defences

Aodhán: I thank the Ceann Comhairle for allowing me to raise a local issue, namely the proposed Clontarf flood barrier, which will have a citywide impact.

In September 2005, Dublin City Council’s Clontarf promenade steering committee considered different options for the flood defence-arterial water main works and chose option 5, comprising walls and bunds containing water mains. No public representatives, residents' groups or business groups were represented on this committee. However, the environmental impact statement, EIS, states the main stakeholders were present. The minutes of the meeting indicate that council officials realised, even at that point, the need to provide clear images and drawings for the public consultation process. This recommendation was not pursued, however.

A consultation evening was held in St. Anthony's Parish Church in Clontarf on 12 June 2006 to deal with the scope of the information to be included in the EIS. Residents' groups were invited to the meeting. According to a council e-mail of Tuesday, 11 October 2006, the public consultation process on the flood defences-arterial water mains did not commence until 3 December 2007. Accordingly, this meeting cannot be considered to have been part of that process. Indeed, the EIS had not even been completed at that stage.

In November 2007, all residents' groups were written to informing them that Dublin City Council was about to apply to An Bord Pleanála for planning permission through the submission of an EIS, as yet unseen by residents, businesses or local representatives. The letter also informed them a period of public consultation would take place and that full details of the project would be on public display for eight weeks in Dublin City Council’s civic office, Marino library, none of which are in the Clontarf area itself, and on the council’s website. On 3 December 2007, this submission and public consultation was further advertised in the Irish Independent and this date was the commencement of the public consultation period.

One day later, on 4 December 2007, Dublin City Council applied to An Bord Pleanála for permission for the works as outlined in the EIS and first advertised to the public one day previously. Subsequently, in July 2008 planning permission was granted by An Bord Pleanála.

There is no evidence of any involvement of either public representatives, residents or local businesses, prior to a decision being made in September 2005, that the preferred option for the works was for bunds-walls rather than four other options under consideration. Although the council has accepted the height recommendation changed after plans were first presented to local councillors in 2006, this was not communicated and no supplemental presentation was made detailing the alterations or the reasons held by the council for departing from the original proposal.
Prior to the planning application being made to An Bord Pleanála in December 2007, no public representatives or residents groups had sight of a completed environmental impact statement, EIS, or had an opportunity to provide feedback or comment on it. The EIS was made available on 3 December - the application was made to An Bord Pleanála on 4 December. As a result, the only opportunity these stakeholders had to make an input into the process was that afforded them by the An Bord Pleanála system at a cost of €50. Although the EIS was made available after the application had been made to An Bord Pleanála, it was never available at any public location in Clontarf. My point is that the process was deficient from the beginning.

I wish to bring the Minister of State's attention to another matter. The development is in close proximity to a number of special protection areas and a special area of conservation, namely, north Dublin Bay. I direct the Minister of State to Article 6(3) of the habitats directive and the guidance provided by the Commission, those being, EC (2000), EC (2002) and EC (2006). Any plan or project that may have a significant effect on a special area of conservation shall be subject to an appropriate assessment of its implications for the site in view of the site's conservation objectives. This appropriate assessment should include, where appropriate, obtaining the opinion of the general public and must comply with the requirements as set forth by the directive and clarified by the Commission's guidance notes and the European Court of Justice, ECJ, cases C-127/02 and C-418/04.

The EIS on the works in question does not comply with the requirements of the directive and relevant explanatory documents, since no appropriate assessment was undertaken. In taking the decision under An Bord Pleanála reference 29N.JA0008, the competent authority - Dublin City Council - has failed to take account of the appropriate assessment of the implications of the development for the designated Natura 2000 site in light of the site's conservation objectives and has not made certain that the development will not affect the integrity of the site.

Like the council, will the Minister of State accept that the consultation process was deficient? Will he accept the documentation that I will provide him for his officials to examine? Will his officials examine the relevant European legislation and the ECJ cases I have outlined? Will the Minister of State engage with the Irish Insurance Federation, IIF, to ensure that the question of these works proceeding or not proceeding in the immediate future will not have a negative impact on householders on the Clontarf promenade?

Deputy Brian Hayes: I thank the Deputy for raising this matter. I know the area well, having played there as a young boy before going to the west side of the city. I also know of people's concerns, but I must point out that this is a Dublin City Council scheme. The objective of the Office of Public Works, OPW, which has national responsibility for providing policy and funding, is to work with local authorities in the delivery of such schemes.

I will set out the facts. The Clontarf sea front area was identified as one of the areas most at risk of flooding in the Dublin coastal flood protection project study, which was completed in 2005 by international expert consultants Royal Haskoning and commissioned by Dublin City Council with funding from the OPW. Following the study's completion, Dublin City Council appointed Royal Haskoning to design a flood relief scheme for the area. The scheme was designed to the normal standards required for coastal flood protection, including protection against a flood with an annual exceedance probability of 0.5%, typically known as a 200-year flood event, with an allowance for climate change.

The OPW understands that Dublin City Council made available full details of the flood defence project to residents, local businesses and elected representatives at the various informal and formal public consultations in 2006 and 2007 leading up to the submission of a full EIS to An Bord Pleanála in 2007. The submission was also advertised in the national press, site notices were erected and the project details and EIS report were put on public display in the council's civic offices and in Marino Library. The EIS took full account of all aspects of the project, including the visual impact of the flood defence structures. The EIS and the project were subsequently approved by An Bord Pleanála in 2008.

Dublin City Council has since advanced the scheme as part of the north city water main project. The procurement process for the overall scheme, which includes the north city water supply scheme phases 1 and 2 and the flood defence works, has been progressed as one contract for reasons of efficiency and economies of cost. The OPW has agreed in principle to provide the funding to undertake the flood defence aspects of the works, amounting to approximately 46% of the overall costs. This is Dublin City Council's scheme, not the Government's. We provide the money for schemes and set national policy frameworks.

This scheme incorporates the use of landscaping rather than extensive wall construction. This is designed to minimise the impact and, in so far as it is possible, retain the character of the Clontarf sea front. The council accepts that there will be a loss of visual amenity. Without this project, however, the area will continue to flood, which the Deputy knows it has done frequently.

I understand that, in response to concerns raised by residents and members of the business community in recent weeks, Dublin City Council made a presentation to a special meeting of councillors of the north central area committee yesterday afternoon. At that meeting, the council agreed to arrange meetings with the residents for next week with a further area committee to take place on 7 November. The OPW had a member of staff at the meeting who explained that the rationale for the OPW providing funding for the scheme was based on the scheme being cost beneficial and that it would conform to the normal standards applying to such coastal schemes. The OPW awaits the outcome of the further consultation process

Aodhán: I thank the Minister of State for his reply, although the matters it addressed differed from those that I raised. Will he accept the documentation? If I forward it to his Department, will he ask his officials to investigate under section 21 of the Planning and Development Act on An Bord Pleanála whether every statutory box was ticked in respect of the consultation process? Will his office also take into consideration the European legislation to which I referred? I will forward it to his office and to other Ministers with responsibility in this regard. Will the Minister of State take into consideration the insurance implications of these works going ahead or not going ahead and engage with the IIF? If his office commits to doing so, it would provide solace to the residents and wider community affected. These are three simple suggestions and I appreciate the Ceann Comhairle's indulgence.

Deputy Brian Hayes: The suggestions are good, but they will not make any difference. The key issue is that this is a Dublin City Council scheme. The council is looking for money from us. To obtain that, it must show that the State will get value for the money we spend. We are prepared to consider any alternative arising from the consultation with local councillors last night and with residents next week. If the council makes an alternative proposal, we are prepared to consider it.

The only criterion we have when an application is made is whether it is worth spending money. There is no point in spending money if it has no value when an event occurs. All of the EU legislation in the world will not make a difference. This is a question of getting value for the State's money. If an alternative proposal is brought to our attention by the council, we will consider it.

We have set money aside for the scheme. If it is not spent this year, I cannot guarantee the people of Clontarf that it will be spent next year. If a flooding event occurs, I ask people to realise that the houses, businesses and communities along the long Clontarf Road will suffer the brunt of it.

The only way to stop the floods is to build a wall or a variety of other schemes that may help. We are open to considering all alternatives, but time is of the essence. Given the fact that we are not the party conducting this process, our task is to fund something if it has value and will stop a flood. Otherwise, the money will not be provided. The next time a flood occurs, Deputies will ask me why we did not do something.

Dublin City Council must sort this issue out with the local community and local councillors in the first instance. Assuming it does, I will consider any alternative proposal. We have a clear model on which we determine cost-benefit analyses. If an alternative delivers value for the State's investment, we will consider it and progress the scheme. I hope I have been fair, honest and forthcoming in responding to the Deputy.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Clontarf Road Flood Defences

ROLLING UPDATES: Clontarf Road Flood Defences

Following a meeting yesterday with Dublin City Council, officials have accepted that the consultation process prior to their An Bord Pleánala application was “minimal” and “didn’t work”. They have pledged to re-engage with the OPW and An Bord Pleánala to ascertain whether significant changes can be made to the proposal. In the meantime, no contract will be signed.

This morning, myself and Cllr. Jane Horgan-Jones have submitted a document to Minister for Housing and Planning Willie Penrose outlining the deficiencies we see in the process to date. He has undertaken to examine the document carefully.

We will continue to work diligently on the issue on behalf of residents and will do our best to keep you informed every step along the way.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Clontarf Road Flood Defences

ROLLING UPDATES: Clontarf Road Flood Defences

This afternoon Cllr. Jane Horgan-Jones and I attended a Dublin City Council Area Meeting where the issue of the flood defences on the Clontarf Road was discussed.

At this meeting, the Council officials informed Jane and I that no contract will be signed until further consultation has been undertaken with the Office of Public Works (OPW), An Bord Pleanala and residents in the local community.

I will continue to update residents on this issue as it develops and should you wish to discuss this matter with me please don't hesitate to give me a call.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Clontarf Road Flood Defences

ROLLING UPDATES: Clontarf Road Flood Defences

I have met with the Minister for Housing and Planning Willie Penrose this afternoon and he has requested that I compile a briefing document in relation to this matter and submit it to his Department as soon as possible.

I will go about doing this immediately after myself and Cllr. Jane Horgan-Jones attend the Area Committee Meeting which takes place tomorrow Wednesday, 12th. We plan on conveying the concerns of residents to Dublin City Council officials at this meeting.

Please be assured that I will keep you updated every step of the way throughout this process and should you wish to discuss this matter with me please don't hesitate to give me a call.

Clontarf Road Flood Defences

ROLLING UPDATES: Clontarf Road Flood Defences

I am writing to update you on my activities in relation to the proposed construction of the Clontarf Road flood defences.

I have submitted a request to the Office of the Ceann Comhairle to raise this matter on the floor of the House today. This is the most effective way of raising the matter as it guarantees a ministerial response. Unfortunately, the Ceann Comhairle's office has decided not to select my topic for discussion.

However, I wish to assure you that I will be applying to discuss this matter again on Wednesday, 12th October. In addition, I plan to meet with the Minister for Housing and Planning Willie Penrose TD to discuss this matter this afternoon.

Moreover, myself and Cllr. Jane Horgan-Jones will attend the Dublin City Council area committee meeting tomorrow and we plan on highlighting the concerns of residents at this meeting.

Should you wish to discuss this matter further with me then please don't hesitate to give me a call.

Monday, October 10, 2011


Aodhán Ó Ríordáin and Cllr. Jane Horgan-Jones are seeking clarification on the imminent construction of flood defence barriers in Clontarf, which are a cause of immense concern to local residents.

These new measures were undertaken to combat the horrendous flooding which many households and businesses in and around the Clontarf Road experienced down through the years. However, the height of the new defences has become a point of contention for many people residing in the area.

Deputy Ó Ríordáin states: “A number of residents have expressed their concern about the new flood defence measures to us. I have to say that it was a great surprise to learn that defences consisting of a wall and a raised mound are to be between to 6ft-7ft tall in height and I believe that this decision has to be looked at again.

“We are all in agreement that households and business owners should have protection from the type of flooding which the Clontarf area has experienced in the past, however we cannot undertake new measures if it is going to adversely affect the community.

“It’s really unfortunate that this plan was put in motion pre-2009 when there was no Labour representation in the Clontarf area. I know the councillors for the area at the time were demanding greater flood defence measures but these plans really should have been subject to greater scrutiny before being given the green light.

“I wish to assure residents that myself and local Labour councillor Jane Horgan-Jones will be looking into this matter in order to ensure that residents and business owners are both satisfied with the new measures and protected from any future flooding.”


Contact Aodhán Ó Ríordáin: 086-819-0336

Twitter: @AodhanORiordain