Calls in Offaly for millions of tonnes of peat silt to be dredged from Shannon

Derek Fanning

Reporter:

Derek Fanning

Calls in Offaly for millions of tonnes of peat silt to be dredged from Shannon

Flooding in the Shannon Callows is causing much grief for landowners

A public meeting, organised on Friday evening in Banagher by the Mid Shannon Flood Relief Group, called for the dredging of millions of tonnes of peat silt in the River Shannon's watercourse.

The meeting was told that, contrary to what some environmentalists might think, such a course of action would not be an act of ecological vandalism. The situation was more nuanced than environmentalists realise, the meeting was told.

Deputy Anne Rabbitte pointed out that even during the 2018 drought, when the river was very low, tourist craft had no difficulty navigating the river. She said the ESB is working according to antiquated, 1934 rules.

“We need to go with the river's summer level all year round, and to do that we will have to change the legislation. Fianna Fáil is committed to doing that. Fianna Fáil is also committed to having just one overarching authority. We need to remove the silt pinchpoints. In places, the river is only about half its original width because of the silt.”

Cllr Eamon Dooley said the Councils' drainage committees have “been done away with, for some reason. As a result, drains are not being cleaned."

Cllr Michael Connolly, from Ballinasloe, said clearing works were abandoned because they might affect a species of fish in the river.

“We can't be dancing to the ecological tune all the time. We are not talking about doing anything too drastic. We are just talking about restoring the Shannon to its original width. This has to be brought home to people. We are not talking about doing something which will cause a major ecological disaster.”

Cllr Dermot Connolly, from Ballinasloe, said people's homes are more than just a roof over their head. “It is very distressing for them to see water coming into their homes.”

Damien Martin told the meeting that years ago the government was going to remove a pinchpoint beside his land, but eventually nothing came of the plan.

“I grew up in this area and I often swam and fished in the Shannon when I was a young lad. The water was clear and I often drank it using my cupped hands. You wouldn't do that now. It's murky and doesn't inspire confidence. I remember Oliver J Flanagan, decades ago, standing on a butter box and proclaiming he was going to drain the Shannon.

“I listened this week with dismay to a professor claiming that dredging the Shannon will make the water go faster and will damage the bridges. This is nonsense. It seems to be that the more education you have then the more licence you have to talk rubbish. These people need to listen to the people.

“For years I went pike fishing in the Shannon. Now the areas where I used to fish are so full of peat silt that you can't fish there anymore. The amount of silt in the river is now at an unbelievable level. I have nothing against Bord na Móna but they are a state body and they should be compelled to dredge the river.”

Another person said he has been living in the Clonmacnoise area for 60 years and he remembered the water being clear and drinkable. “It's muddy and cloudy now and you wouldn't drink it. Years ago we could see the river's bed. You can't see it now. There was a lot more pike and salmon back then as well.”

Read more in this week's Midland Tribune