Posted by: fermoyweir | December 10, 2009

Martin Mansergh’s spinning

(From a letter to The Avondhu newspaper, dated 26th November 2009)

Dear Sir,
On Friday 20th of November on “Morning Ireland”, the junior minister with responsibility for the Office of Public Works, Dr Martin Mansergh TD, appeared under pressure to explain why the Fermoy Flood Relief Scheme has taken so long since its initial announcement in 2004 to finally start this Autumn with a possible final finish date now (perhaps) sometime in 2014. 
In attempting to answer the interviewer, Dr Mansergh made a statement that “it takes a while to achieve a sufficient degree of local consensus. There are often, sort of, other issues, weirs, boat clubs et cetera, ahh, that have to be, eh, that have to be addressed”.
The implied suggestion from the minister seems to be that the campaign to save Fermoy’s historic weir has in some way slowed the implementation of the Flood Plan by the Office of Public Works. Further, the implication seems to be that had it not been for the actions of members of Fermoy Rowing Club and others in their efforts to prevent the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources from carrying out their intentions to drastically alter Fermoy Weir and to ruin a riverscape which has existed since 1170, last week’s catastrophic flooding might have been somehow avoided.
Fermoy Rowing Club rejects this inference as the blatant political spin it is. 
Anyone who knows the river Blackwater will tell you that the weir does not affect flooding. The Office of Public Works never considered the weir a component of Fermoy’s Flood Relief Plan until they reluctantly agreed to assist the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources as “an act of adminstrative convenience”. (The line was that it would be like two neighbours getting their drives paved and deciding to pool the costs. The OPW man in charge was visibly discomfitted by our questions about costings at a public meeting two years ago.) 
We discovered, in our investigations, that planning permission would not be required to remove Fermoy Weir, even though it is a projected structure, if the work was carried out under the cover of flood relief. Had the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources  got away with their attempts to lump their proposed weir work in with the Flood Plan, the OPW would thus have had carte blanche to remove the weir and replace it with the Department’s Rock Ramp Pass.
If the weir caused any delay in the implementation of the Flood Plan then this was only because of the complications caused by the DCENR at the last minute trying to piggy-back their own schemes onto the Flood Plan. The current OPW work is only phase one of a three phase plan. Phase one is costing €3.3 million, less than 10% of the over-all plan, costed at €35 million and projected to last five years. As yet, funding for phases two and three has not been budgeted.

Fermoy Rowing Club sympathises deeply with our friends, neighbours and members who have suffered so badly as a result of last week’s flooding and we deplore this attempt by Minister Mansergh to pass the buck in such a shameless fashion. This is the same man, when launching the Flood Plan in the Grand Hotel in September, whose most helpful advice to townspeople worried about the possibility of flooding during the construction of the Flood Relief Scheme was that they should pray for fine weather.
Yours sincerely,

Donal O’Keeffe
Hon. Secretary 
Fermoy Rowing Club



  1. MINISTER HITS BACK (The Avondhu 24th December 2009)

    Dear Editor,

    ‘In your edition of 26th November, 2009 you printed a letter from Mr Donal O’Keeffe, honorary secretary, Fermoy Rowing Club, entitled ‘Blatant Political Spin’. ‘I reject the allegation, and would like to take this opportunity to put the record straight regarding the River Blackwater (Fermoy) Flood Relief Scheme.’

    ‘Flood relief schemes of this magnitude (in the order of €35-40M for all phases in this case) are by their very nature time-consuming and detailed both in planning and in construction terms.

    ‘In 2002, OPW commissioned consultants to develop a Flood Alleviation Scheme, which resulted in an engineering report being completed in late 2003. The scheme was designed to incorporate embankments, permanent walls and demountable structures, in order to mitigate against the 1-in-100 year flood event.

    ‘Implementation of the scheme is phased. A public exhibition of the scheme was held in November-December 2005. Detailed design of Phase 1 of the scheme commenced in mid-2006, and in March 2007 Fermoy Town Council strongly approved of the scheme. Pre-qualification for the construction element of Phase 1 began in mid-2007’.

    ‘In October 2008, the Department of Finance directed that OPW procure a contractor under the fixed price form of contract, which resulted in the appointment of Carillion Irishenco Ltd, contractors, who are currently on site. The estimated contract period for phase 1 is 9-12 months and it is hoped to commence construction on the remaining phases, Fermoy South East and South West (which are currently at detailed design stage), in late 2010/early 2011’.

    ‘Throughout this whole process, from the conception of the flood relief scheme through to the beginning of the construction phase, one of the most important objectives of the Office of Public Works has been to include all stakeholders in the consultative and deliberative process.

    ‘My office operates on the principle that consultation with all parties is of vital importance prior to the commencement of any works, and greatly values the input of locals, residents who stand to be affected by any proposed schemes.

    My officials, and OPWs consultants, met with stakeholders on a number of occasions with particular regard to this scheme, and all views were taken into consideration in advance of the proposed scheme going on public exhibition’.

    ‘I have enormous sympathy for home and business owners who have been affected once again by the recent serious flooding, and I would like to assure all residents of Fermoy that we will do everything in our power to ensure that all phases of the Fermoy Flood Relief Scheme are completed and become operational as soon as possible’.

    Yours sincerely,
    Dr Martin Mansergh TD,
    St Stephen’s Green,
    Dublin 2.

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