11 November 2011 One Comment by The Northern Standard

The commissioning by Monaghan Co Council of a helicopter to take aerial photographs of the severe flooding which afflicted the county a number of weeks ago may have generated some passing concern at Monday’s meeting of the authority as to the cost value of the exercise (see story, page one), but the evidence produced and circulated at the meeting conveyed much more graphically than words the gravity of the plight which some of our communities were plunged into by this severe weather event.
The visual evidence also contextualised the scale of the task confronting the local authority staff members, emergency services and volunteers who came to the aid of the most severely afflicted parts of the county – and accentuated the merits of the assistance they were able to render.
Allied to the excellence in detail and description of the written report presented to the meeting by Director of Corporate Services Paul Clifford, the photographic material conveyed powerfully just how vulnerable parts of Co Monaghan are to intermittent inundation by overflowing watercourses.
Hopefully the compelling nature of the evidence will be recognised by the relevant officials of the Dept of the Environment and the Office of Public Works that it is to be presented to – and the necessary investment, both financially and in expertise, is forthcoming to alleviate the suffering and inconvenience that Co Monaghan people are subjected to on an almost annual basis when severe rainfall strikes.
We share the view of Colr Pádraig McNally that such events no longer occupy the category of freak occurrences, but will become more common manifestations of our changing climate.
This situation behoves a vigilant preparedness on the part of the responsible agencies.
As the most recent flooding incident in this county demonstrated, an effective and flexible template for reaction is in place at local level to deal with the problem when it arises.
But even the best of local emergency plans only amount, often literally, to a fire brigade exercise. The true remedy is prevention.
The prescient cleaning work carried out by Monaghan Town Council on the Shambles River a few weeks before the October deluge illustrates this admirably.
The operation did not prevent the serious flooding problems that arise in the centre of the town from recurring – but they did result in the floodwaters abating at a much more rapid rate than has been the recent experience.
If similar remedial measures had been carried out on the Dromore river system, in recent times, it would surely have gone some way to preventing the people of Ballybay from being subjected to the privations they endured at the end of last month.
The experience of those residents of the town, many of them advanced in years, who had to be evacuated from their homes, has a traumatic dimension that can only be guessed at by those who did not have to undergo it.
While the floods may have abated, it will be some time yet before some townspeople can return to their homes and restore normalcy to their lives.
Their story graphically depicts the human cost of such devastating events, a cost that is more profound and less easily repaired than the damage inflicted to the natural and built environment.
It is a story worthy of being recorded anecdotally and added to the weight of evidence presented at Monday’s Co Council meeting as a prompt for those who have national responsibility for dealing with flooding issues to get their act together.

The life of the national public representative is often a thankless one.
Co Monaghan’s three TDs – Fine Gael’s Heather Humphreys and Sean Conlan, and Sinn Féin’s Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin – all got “a touch” when Monday’s meeting of Monaghan Co Council erupted in the colourful political exchanges that periodically enliven the pulse beat of its debate (see story, page one).
Even Cavan FG Deputy Joe O’Reilly earned a passing critical mention – and though Fianna Fáil’s Brendan Smith was left out of the invective on this occasion, the wounds from his recent Ministerial terms will still be raw enough for him not to feel too much gratitude. His time will surely come round again.
It is sometimes hard for newspapers to know what readers make of the shouting matches that occasionally break out in our meeting chambers.
There is always an element of the participants playing to the perceived gallery of the readership of the local newspaper or the listenership of local radio.
Such rows – which are, it should be stressed, very much the exception to the normal comradely rule of debate – might impress the partisans of the political participants, but often, we suspect, leave the more dispassionate consumer of local news less than impressed by the way councillors choose to conduct themselves.
Ultimately it is up to the news media to report such exchanges, like all other contributions in public local authority forums, with as much balance and objectivity as possible and let the reader or listener draw their own conclusions.
It is, of course, important for the people who elected TDs to be aware of how they speak and act in the Dáil on issues of importance such as health services, a debate on which was the spark that lit Monday’s Co Council exchanges.
And the main combatants were undoubtedly sincerely motivated in their contributions.
SF’s Matt Carthy perceived the voting practices of our Government TDs as being a betrayal of the wishes of the people of Co Monaghan regarding hospital services in general and those at Monaghan General Hospital in particular – while FG’s Hugh McElvaney took strong issue with the presentation of the facts as conveyed by Colr Carthy and by Deputy Ó Caoláin in a Press statement published in a recent edition of this newspaper, and saw himself as defending his party colleagues from unwarranted and misrepresented attack.
A thought prompted by the debate is how little media attention is actually given to the everyday business that takes place in our national parliament.
While local politicians have their sayings and doings documented in detail by the provincial media, the coverage given by our national counterparts to the workaday business carried out in the Houses of the Oireachtas tends to be selective and haphazard.
Work carried out by TDs and Senators in Dáil Committees in particular, though important and often legislatively significant, is largely ignored.
Lack of information on what our Dáil Deputies actually do every day can cultivate a dangerous disconnect between themselves and their electorate – and the periodic reflection of Dáil debates through the occasional reference they receive in local authority chambers, such as happened on Monday, or by the Press statements issued by TDs themselves to the local media, is often an imperfect prism, vulnerable to being selective or subjective in their nature.
The situation can make a seat in Leinster House look like a thankless posting, but there are undoubtedly compensations.
Who’d be a TD? A good many of our local councillors, we suspect.

One Comment »

  • Peter said:

    Hmmm, I wonder does the County Council realise that there are small remote control flying drones which can take aerial photographs / video for a fraction of the cost of a helicopter, indeed I am quite certain that a small fixed wing aircraft would represent better value for money. Typical though of Irish Public Sector Servants being so careless with tax payers money……what a country!