06 Jul 2022

Flooding victims tell Offaly meeting about their plight

Boxer Moran

'Boxer' Moran at Meelick, during dredging works on the Shannon in 2017. Locals want several pinchpoints between Meelick and Athlone dredged..

A number of farmers and local people told a public meeting about their sometimes distressing flooding experiences, in Esker Schoolhouse, Banagher on Friday evening.

Speaking from the floor, Maura Flannery said she lives on Crank Road Banagher. She said the road is impassable by car, and has been impassable for several days. “I run a B&B and I have had to cancel all bookings. Our only way to get into town is to put on our waders or by tractor. This is the second time our road has been badly flooded. On the last occasion, we received compensation, but now there are more get-out clauses and compensation seems less likely.”

A woman from Shannonharbour told the meeting that her house was flooded in 2015. She said the government wouldn't give her any financial assistance because she had home insurance. She pointed out that financial assistance from the government would have been very helpful because she could have used it to futureproof her house from further flooding incidents. “I had to raise my floors by nine inches, and had to pay for it myself. I had to spend a lot of money to make my house floodproof and there was absolutely no government assistance with this. I sent letters to department officials but I got the impression they didn't even bother reading the letters.”

Angela Mahon from Clonfert said the area around her home was flooded in both 2009 and 2015 making it impossible to drive cars in or out. “The government told us we weren't entitled to any financial assistance because the waters would have to be entering our house, but the floods seriously inconvenienced us. We were effectively cut off. Only tractors could reach us.”

Paddy Tuohy said his house was flooded and the government offered him €40,000. “But the €40,000 was far too little, therefore I am living now in rented accommodation. I never had one visit from Boxer Moran. Only Cllr John Leahy ever visited me.”

Paddy Larkin said he has a farm on the Callows. “It's now nearly a waste of time putting cattle on the Callows at any time of the year, the situation is so bad. The season for putting cattle on the Callows is now ridiculously short, lasting only from May or June to August or September.” He said he noticed the politicians seemed to be more sympathetic to their plight in the weeks leading up to the General Election. He acknowledged that a number of flooding defences have been installed, but mostly in urban areas (under CFRAM) and not in rural areas.

Another person said she was offered €165,000 by the government to build a house in a different area after her house was flooded, “but we felt it was too little and so turned it down. I contacted Boxer Moran many times, but with no breakthrough. In the end he basically told me to leave him in peace.”

“All of us who farm on the Callows,” said another, “are under severe pressure because of the flooding. That level of pressure wasn't there 15 to 20 years ago.”

Cllr John Leahy commented that some environmentalists don't seem to have the people's best interests at heart. “In the past, farmers complained about a certain amount of flooding taking place on their land. Now the amount of area being flooded has increased by four, five or six times. I am also concerned that no one is talking of compensating the victims during this latest flooding period. We are hearing a lot about the impact on people, but we hear nothing about whether they are going to be compensated or not.”

Deputy Seán Canney said the conversation about compensation wouldn't begin until a new government has formed. “I am very disappointed to hear that the home relocation scheme seems to have become an administrative and bureaucratic nightmare. I will definitely take the issue up with the Department.  

“Over the years I have been to many meetings about the Shannon flooding problem. Some of those meetings have been positive. In some of those meetings we have discussed removing the silt / sediment pinchpoints along the river. In this regard the National Parks and Wildlife Service would be with us every step of the way. The NPWS realises that people come first and foremost. A couple of years ago dredging machinery began clearing a pinchpoint near Meelick. It was a landmark moment because it was the first time dredging work was done after years of talking about it.

“I agree that CFRAM is for urban areas but there is also monies available for works in rural areas.

“You can't wish environmentalists away. You have to work hand in hand with them, and it's possible to do so.

“A big problem was the timescale of getting works done. Sometimes it took seven to eight years. Now it's down to three or four. In actual fact, a lot of work has been done on minor work schemes but it has been a long process to get them done”.

He said there's another problem with insurance companies and their attitude towards people living in the Callows. “Last year Special Needs schools couldn't get insurance. It makes me wonder if a national insurance scheme for everything would be a better concept, whereby we get rid of insurance companies and let the State underwrite everything. Overall, the flooding compensation scheme is far too slow.”

Mr Canney recalled first meeting Michael Silke at a flooding meeting in 2004. “Michael was the only person at that stage talking about removing the silt pinchpoints.”

Another attendee said he was present at a flooding meeting all the way back in 1974, and another one in 1985. “At that stage we were promised one single Shannon Authority, and yet here we are all these years later and still it hasn't happened. I am now 71 and I have been listening to politicians all my life. Nothing has changed. We should start tackling the problem from Limerick up.”

Mr Canney said Cost Benefit Analyses of Flood Risk Adaptation Strategies often proves to be a very good way of tackling the problem. “For example we did a Cost Benefit Analysis of the flooding problem at Kiltiernan National School and it proved very effective.”

He added that if a single Shannon Authority is set up it will of course have to be abide by all statutory requirements.

A person from the floor pointed out that the home relocation scheme in 2009 was “very generous, but it is obvious that since then it has been squeezed considerably."

Another person said she is currently using sandbags and pumps to keep the water from entering her home.

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