On a typical Saturday morning, a small group of friends from across the Irish Sea are preparing to board a ferry from Lough Erne to Galway.
It is the same day that Ireland’s prime minister, Enda Kenny, delivers his final address to the nation.
In the past decade, the country has become a beacon for international business, and the government’s strategy to boost exports has helped build a middle class and bring in more foreign investment.
But the latest data from the European Commission shows that, as a whole, Ireland is not doing enough to address the challenges posed by climate change and rising sea levels.
Ireland has the world’s worst-performing economy and its population is ageing at a rate of more than 10 per cent.
Its population of nearly one million people is on track to grow by almost one million by 2050, compared to an average of about 200,000 people every decade.
“People are not getting the help they need,” says Eoin MacCarthy, a professor at the University of Dublin.
“In terms of economic growth, Ireland has a long way to go.
In terms of environmental protection, it has not made a lot of headway.”
The problem has its origins in the global warming that has hit Ireland, with its climate, land use and sea level changes.
This has left some towns in the south of the country vulnerable to flooding.
The government has been trying to mitigate some of the damage by building flood barriers, but there is still work to be done.
In June, the government introduced a $4.7 million plan to build a flood wall in Cork city centre, but the project was plagued by delays, which resulted in the city’s council losing its legal battle to stop the project.
That led to a massive $2.5 billion cost overrun.
This month, the EU rejected Ireland’s appeal for help in tackling climate change, but it still needs to take action to reduce CO2 emissions.
Ireland is currently the world leader in the construction of flood barriers on land and sea, but climate change has caused the construction costs to increase.
“It’s been a long time coming,” says Kevin Fenton, director of climate and resilience at the Dublin-based Institute for Climate Change Communication.
“The flood barrier issue has been a major issue for a number of years, and it was only just in the past few years that it really got the attention it needed.”
He adds: “The cost of building a flood barrier has increased over the last few years, as has the cost of the water management infrastructure it needs to maintain it.”
In 2014, the Environment Agency estimated that building flood walls could cost up to €12 million a year, and cost about €2.7 billion a year for water management.
The Irish government estimates that the cost to maintain and improve the flood barrier is around €1.6 billion.
“This is just one piece of the puzzle, but we’ve still got to address it,” says Mr Fenton.
The €3.5 million cost to install a new wall was agreed between the Irish and EU governments, and Ireland is hoping that this will be enough to keep it up and running.
But it’s not.
The new wall will cost around €2 million to install, while the €1 million for the cost for the water mitigation infrastructure will require an additional €1 billion.
The EU also wants the country to upgrade its flood barrier system, and this will add another €2 billion.
This means the EU is asking Ireland to spend more money on building a new flood barrier than the EU itself would spend on the system.
This is because, according to the Irish government, €3 billion is needed for a flood protection system, while €1 for water mitigation is the equivalent of just €2 for a new barrier.
“I am extremely disappointed,” says Joe Costello, the minister for environment.
Ireland is trying to find an affordable solution for the floodwall, and is considering ways to raise the money needed for the system from private investors. “
A flood barrier that is in the ground is not the answer.”
Ireland is trying to find an affordable solution for the floodwall, and is considering ways to raise the money needed for the system from private investors.
But while the government is working to find solutions, it is also looking at what other options are out there for reducing CO2 pollution and ensuring that Ireland stays at the forefront of the global effort to combat climate change.
“Climate change is not just about CO2, it’s about water and land, and that’s why we’re trying to address this as much as possible,” says Fenton “The only way to do that is to look at what the cheapest solutions are.”
In response to this growing concern, the Department of Finance is currently examining the possibility of developing an alternative flood barrier, which is an investment in the development of new infrastructure.
But this is not a cheap investment, with the cost per square metre of the existing flood barrier at €1,500.
“To have this in place at the moment would cost almost a third of the cost it would cost