Farmers could be paid for use of land to ‘slow down’ flood water, Eamon Ryan says

Green Party leader cites need for better land management as Government prepares improved package of supports for those impacted by flooding

Ireland must change how it manages land, including paying farmers to encourage new practices, to reduce flooding risk in the future, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan has said.

With the Government this weekend working on an improved package of supports for those impacted by flooding that caused extensive damage in Midleton, Co Cork, and elsewhere, Mr Ryan said a warming Irish climate meant more intense rain, which would fall on ground which had already seen record rainfall this year. “It is a concern as we face into winter. If we see very heavy rainfall patterns that could present a difficulty,” he said.

Long-term strategies to combat flooding should address the use of land further upstream, including planting different species of grass and new forestry strategies, Mr Ryan said, arguing this could be done in a way that benefits farmers and foresters. “We’re going to have to really look at how we manage our land. It’s that sort of planning now we’re going to need as part of the long-term adaptation to climate change we are going to have to do.”

Mr Ryan said billions would have to be invested, including in “nature-based solutions”, to deal with climate change. The approach would not be about “micromanaging any farmer or telling people what to do”. However, reforming land use to tackle the threats from climate change has proven to be politically divisive in Ireland and elsewhere.


Mr Ryan referred to a flood management programme on the River Dodder in his own constituency of Dublin Bay South, which involved interacting with local farmers in the Wicklow Mountains, where the river rises, and farmers have been encouraged to plant and rewild forest strips.

“That does have a benefit, that does help lower the speed of the water running into rivers,” he said. “It is going to be a case of paying and making sure we have the right incentives so that in the upper catchments particularly you slow the water down, and in that way, reduce the problem in our towns and villages and cities.”

Senior Government sources said a €10 million allocation to a humanitarian fund for victims of this week’s flooding was set to increase, but the Opposition raised concerns over the adequacy of funds for households, businesses and remediation of affected infrastructure.

It is understood Minister for Enterprise Simon Coveney will next week seek Cabinet approval for a significant increase in the current payouts for impacted business, which currently top out at €20,000. Coalition insiders were guarded about just how much the grants would increase, saying only they would go up “markedly”. It is understood Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe has yet to review the draft package.

A spokesman for Mr Coveney said he met the Irish Red Cross to discuss a memo to go to Cabinet next week and “to ensure the response to the businesses affected will be quick in terms of both assessment and payout”.

“We will continue to work with the Taoiseach and the Department of Finance over the weekend,” said the spokesman.

Separately, President Michael D Higgins has said the recent floods revealed Ireland’s lack of protection against climate change. “We’re now in circumstances where the consequences of climate change...are ones that are going to be visited on us again,” Mr Higgins told reporters after he delivered a speech at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation forum in Rome.

On Friday night Met Éireann issued an orange weather warning for Wicklow and Dublin, specifying a threat of heavy rain, local flooding, dangerous driving conditions and poor visibility until 8am on Saturday.

Meanwhile, humans are causing major changes to Ireland’s climate, indicated by increased rainfall and elevated temperatures, according to research by Maynooth University, which analysed weather records back to the 1850s. One third of 30 rainfall stations analysed show increases in rainfall intensity – the heavy rainfall that often causes surface flooding, especially in urban areas.

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times

Naomi O’Leary

Naomi O’Leary

Naomi O’Leary is Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times