People living in rural areas of Athlone will not benefit from any planned flood defences resulting from the CFRAM report, according to Westmeath County Council.
The question was raised by Fine Gael councillor, John Dolan, who is adamant that any flood prevention measures should take into account all of those living within the flood plain of the River Shannon.
Director of services, Barry Kehoe, informed councillors that certain measures would be taken to provide protection to people in areas such as Golden Island, Carrickobrien, and Muckanagh, such as raising road levels and putting in place more durable pavements that can withstand future flooding “and won’t break up if flooding does occur”. However, he made it clear that these areas are not being considered as sites for flood defences.
“As I see it, there won’t be defences for rural areas,” Mr Kehoe said. “It simply cannot be done, land is going to flood when the river rises.” Cllr Dolan told councillors that people in rural areas are concerned that any defences put in place in Athlone will only serve to push the problem further down river and onto their doorsteps.
He said maintenance work on the Shannon must be undertaken to protect these areas: “I am using the analogy of a lad going to get his heart looked at. If he had a main artery like the Shannon he’d be in trouble. There are sections of the Shannon blocked up that need clearing. When work was undertaken in 2010 everything came to a halt when a rare dead fish was found.
“I know we need to look after nature, but we also have to look after people and their properties. I don’t think anything should stop that, especially State agencies and bodies that are funded by the State. The agencies I have in mind are National Parks and Wildlife and Taisce. There is only one endangered species I could see in the last five weeks and that is the human species, so this needs to stop now.
“We have to protect everybody, with ‘everybody’ being the key word here. I agree with flood defences for Athlone, but they have go to hand in hand with maintenance work further down the river so that everyone is protected.”