When politicians ask themselves what service they can give to the people in the context of the flooding crisis, it pertains to what should be done in the future. In part, Members can give voice and have a role in giving voice to people who are faced with this situation on a daily basis. I refer to those whose homes and lives have been destroyed or almost destroyed in many cases. While this is important, others such as the media can do it as well and people can do it themselves. One can see and hear the frustration of people on radio and television. However, politicians operate in a completely different context. Most importantly, their role pertains to deciding what to do to ensure such things do not happen again.
Otherwise, they have no real role. Members have been debating the Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill in this House in the past week or two. I consider it to be good legislation in the main and my party has made this clear in the course of the debate. If memory serves, it includes a reference in the context of development plans to the risk associated with flooding. The Minister needs to re-examine this legislation in the context of returning to this House on Report Stage and subsequently to the Dáil, to ascertain whether it can be strengthened further. I wager that in practically every case in which houses and developments have been built on flood plains over the past ten to 15 years, some lone voice who stood up to argue against it was told he or she was anti-investment, anti-building, anti-progress or anti-something and was shot down over it.
From my personal experience of being on a local authority in an urban area, I know this is what happens to people who raise genuine issues, including people in my party and in this House in respect of improper, ill-advised and inappropriate development and planning carried out in an improper and unsustainable way. This is the difficulty we face. It is not simply about the weather. Some people across this debate like to suggest this is about the weather and that the Government has no control over it and so they throw their heads back.
However, John Gibbons published a good piece in yesterday’s The Irish Times, reminding his readers that this crisis does not follow from a particularly serious period of storms. It has to do with our woeful lack of preparedness in many parts of the country. The kind of debate Members must have as politicians is to ascertain what service they will provide to the people through the planning system and otherwise to ensure there is no repetition of what has happened in recent days, rather than simply giving voice to the genuine hurt that exists.