By Gráinne Ní Aodha, PA
A junior minister said the risk of flooding in Ireland will increase due to climate change – and has asked people to pause before objecting to flood relief schemes.
Speaking at the launch of the Be Winter Ready campaign, Minister of State Patrick O’Donovan said people should check in on older relatives and neighbours during extreme weather events.
“Flooding is not a new risk for Ireland but it is a risk that will increase as the impact of climate change becomes more apparent, and this year’s theme – this year’s main focus – is around flooding.”
Mr O’Donovan said people should make sure electrical appliances are disconnected when a flood warning is issued, while those living in areas prone to flooding should seek alternative accommodation.
He said the Office of Public Works, which he has responsibility for, has made machinery such as pumping equipment available to local authorities.
When asked about Ireland’s attitude to bad weather events, Mr O’Donovan said: “In terms of attitude, I think there is a need to be a shift in attitude and it is a shift to look out for your neighbour when there is an application being lodged to have a relief scheme built to protect properties.
“And I would be very conscious of people who for that mental trauma that are going through and are continuing to wait for people who, for one reason or another, seek to either slow down or object to schemes that are ultimately designed to keep the water out of people’s houses, I would appeal to them to reflect on that.”
Minister of State Hildegarde Naughton, with responsibility for road transport and logistics, said it will be “a key priority” for her to keep national and regional routes open.
“Last year we saw an unusually mild and unsettled winter, and according to Met Eireann’s data, the sixth warmest one in 123 years,” she said.
“We experienced six named storms between December and February, the most disruptive being storm Barra and storm Eunice.
“As extreme weather becomes more and more a feature of the world, there’s every chance that we will be facing a challenging winter ahead.
“While we haven’t experienced cold spells or widespread heavy snowfall in the last couple of years, we may not be as fortunate this year.”
Ms Naughton said during very severe weather “it may not be possible for our transport operations to provide all services as normal” and disruptions may occur.
Head of forecasting at Met Eireann, Evelyn Cusack, said Ireland has been part of the “exceptionally warm” autumn in Europe this year, with Ireland’s temperature rising by over one degree in the last century.
She said the organisation is moving towards “impact-based” weather warnings to reflect the damage extreme weather could have locally.
“So we’re trying to give an idea of what the weather will do rather than just what the weather will be,” she said.
She continued: “During this very wet period – it’s been the wettest October on record – even a small amount of rain can produce flooding, so that’s why you’re hearing more (weather alerts), because we’re actually including the impacts in our warnings.”