herald

Friday 9 December 2016

Tanaiste and minister rock the boat on wet visit to flood victims

Tanaiste Joan Burton and Rural Minister Ann Phelan got a taste of what life is like for flood victims when the canoe they were in overturned. Photo: Dylan Vaughan Photography
Tanaiste Joan Burton and Rural Minister Ann Phelan got a taste of what life is like for flood victims when the canoe they were in overturned. Photo: Dylan Vaughan Photography

Tanaiste Joan Burton and Rural Minister Ann Phelan experienced the hardship of the floods at close quarters - when they both tipped out of a canoe into the icy overflow from a freezing river.

They had been on a visit to Thomastown, Co Kilkenny, yesterday to inspect the devastation of the flood damage from Storm Frank when the incident occurred.

After meeting business owners, they were being taken by Shem Caulfield in a Canadian canoe to visit his home along the banks of the River Nore.

Shem was dragging the canoe behind him as he walked through the floods in waders.

The politicians had almost reached the front door of the house when Shem turned the corner, but both the Tanaiste and the minister tipped into the water, under the aghast gaze of bystanders - and a slew of cameras.

The Tanaiste helped her party colleague from the submerged vessel.

Both women quickly recovered their composure and walked the rest of the way to the house and continued their inspection.

Afterwards, they laughed off the incident, with Ms Phelan saying: "We can't say we didn't experience the flood."

Shem sheepishly joked: "How to drown a Tanaiste", as Minister Burton reassured him, saying: "No, no."

"I'm very fast on my feet," she quipped.

"It's all my fault," Shem said but the Tanaiste brushed off his apologies, saying: "It only went on my trousers," adding that she was not cold and had a change of clothes in the car.

"We're grand. We're a bit tougher than that now," added Ms Phelan.

Later, the pair continued their tour of flood-stricken areas in Kilkenny, as they went on to visit Graiguenamanagh.

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has defended his decision to wait more than three weeks before visiting the communities worst affected by flooding.

The Taoiseach, who was surveying the damage in Athlone yesterday, also defended the Government's strategy on handling the issue, and insisted their plan is working.

He said that a relocation plan may have to be implemented to move people away from areas that flood regularly.

"The question you have to look at is if it is possible to do minor drainage and minor relief works around some houses that are currently surrounded, or is it not," he said.

"If it is not, is it a question of a relocation policy, perhaps to higher ground," he added.

"These are things that need to be looked at because you cannot have a situation where people are facing this on an annual basis."

He spent yesterday morning flying around the country with four ministers to get an aerial view of the devastation caused by recent storms.

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