Unions amend strike plans after ‘unprecedented’ floods
Unions amend strike plans after ‘unprecedented’ floods

Trade unions have scaled back plans for thousands of their members to go on strike tomorrow in five local authority areas around the country which have been severely hit by flood and storm damage.

Personnel in hospitals in flood-hit regions are also to be exempted from the dispute.

The move came as a number of areas struggled to cope with some of the worst floods in living memory.

The 26-County army was called out to fight floodwaters and rescue civilians Cork city, Bantry and Clonakilty in County Cork, Clonmel in County Tipperary, in Ennis in County Clare, and Ballinasloe in County Galway.

About 175 soldiers, 24 vehicles, four flat-bottomed boats and well over 10,000 sandbags were is use over the weekend.

A further 300 soldiers, with vehicles and helicopters, were on stand-by. Tens of thousands are without water, mainly in Cork, as a result of the floods.

Tens of thousands remain without water across the state, and national roads and railway lines have been cut, particularly in the west and south.

The Electricity Supply Board (ESB) has been accused of failing to give people notice of its decision to open the Inniscarra Dam outside Cork -- a move which caused unprecedented flooding in the southern capital.

The action resulted in a huge wall of water flowing down towards the city with the north channel of the river bursting through the quay wall at Grenville Place and flooding the ground floor of the Mercy University Hospital.

Parts of Cork city centre were under water for the first time in more than 50 years.

The ESB rejected criticism and said that following “unprecedented levels of water coming downstream” in the river Lee, large volumes of water had to be released from the dams in order to avoid “the certainty of larger and uncontrolled flooding”.

In Ballinasloe, hundreds of people were evacuated with the help of the Defence Forces, Garda Siochana, Civil Defence and volunteers after the river Suck burst its banks.

People were being put up in hotels and with neighbours and relatives.

The Dublin government held an emergency meeting in response to what Taoiseach Brian Cowen described as an unprecedented situation.

The Taoiseach Brian Cowem said “the immediate priority for Government is to ensure that shelter is available for those people who have been displaced from their homes and to arrange for the provision of emergency supplies of safe drinking water where systems have been damaged.”

Mr Cowen said yesterday he expected industrial action by unions to take place tomorrow, but praised the commitment demonstrated by public servants and others in flooded areas.

Unions representing local authority workers in counties Cork, Clare and Galway, and some hospital staff in Cork, have agreed to defer industrial action to work on recovery efforts. It is understood additional staff, such as community welfare officers, could also be exempted from strike action.

“It appears to me there will be stoppages next Tuesday but in areas affected by this emergency situation let it be said that everyone’s working might and main to resolve the situation,” he said. “There’s absolutely no question about the total commitment by all concerned, those in the public service, those in the emergency services, volunteers, local communities themselves.”

Sinn Fein spokesperson on the Environment Martin Ferris blamed the extent of flood damage in housing estates across the country on the legacy of Fianna Fail’s “cosy relationship with developers throughout the 80’s and 90’s”.

Mr Ferris said the Dublin government should re-house or compensate those people whose homes were built on flood plains and have now been ruined by flood waters.

“Concern for the safety of the homes being built and those living in them meant nothing as developers lusted after massive profits in an over-inflated housing market and in this they were facilitated by their friends in Fianna Fail,” said Mr Ferris.

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