By Dan Walsh
Members and officials expressed universal anger and disappointment during today’s monthly meeting of Enniscorthy Municipal District Council held in the Presentation Chamber at the decision of Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Michael McGrath T.D, who on March 4th, based on the advice of environmental consultants and officials, refused the River Slaney (Enniscorthy) Flood Defence Scheme, submitted by the Office of Public Works (OPW).
Project Engineer Larry McHale told the meeting that the scheme was refused on March 4th and went through details of the scheme which took a great deal of time for the Wexford County Council staff and he said “Personally, I am hugely disappointed” and he explained that the scheme failed on eight points and that five of them could have been dealt with!
Mr McHale felt “it was the wrong decision” and concludes that the entire approval process met with consultants and OPW requirements. An update on ecology and dredging timeline is planned for the next meeting. “I am frustrated and disappointed by the Minister’s decision, but we must keep trying to get back on track.”
Cllr Kathleen Codd-Nolan said the flood relief scheme was so dependent on the development of the town and she thanked Mr McHale for his work. She suggested writing to Minister McGrath “to tell us funding will be there to proceed with the flood work and ask for a time limit in writing from the Minister’s office.”
Cllr Jackser Owens said the issue was “a national disgrace” and “a joke” that the flood scheme was turned down. He felt it “isn’t good enough” and made a call to bring Minister McGrath before a public meeting in Enniscorthy.
Cllr Owens said the Minister had two pieces of paper on this desk – and he decided to sign the one that said “No – however, Cllr Aidan Browne said it wasn’t like that – it refused for legal reasons. “It’s not like the Minister doesn’t like Enniscorthy, that’s his advice,” and he felt the issue will get back on the table.
Cllr John O’Rourke claimed the exchanges were getting “a bit tetchy” but he claimed “we have to put the plan in place and move it forward.”
Cathaoirleach Cllr Cathal Byrne agreed that a letter be sent to the Minister.
Mr McHale returned to the debate and called for a panel of independent experts to review the situation. He felt the ecologists report didn’t give the scheme “a fair hearing.”
The ministerial decision is based on a detailed assessment of the environmental impact of the proposed scheme which concluded that the scheme would have considerable adverse impact on the environment.
The River Slaney (Enniscorthy) Flood Defence Scheme, was submitted by the Office of Public Works in April 2020.
A public consultation was held in 2020. Additional information was sought from OPW towards the end of 2020 and this was submitted in April 2021.
Following discussions with the consultants and with the National Parks and Wildlife Service, it was deemed that the environmental impact of the scheme was such that the scheme should be refused under section 7E(b) of the Arterial Drainage Act.