From bad to worse. In the darkest weeks of winter. In the weeks leading up to the winter equinox, when the days will get longer again, Galway families are asking themselves just how much more hardship they can take.
This is the second successive week that the county has known large scale misfortune, and thankfully no lives have been lost in the great deluge. However, real heartbreak is being experienced this week as people see ruined before their eyes, the place that they called home.
We are all nesting creatures, who prioritise the construction and furnishing of the place to call home. A place where we can feel secure and comfortable, somewhere we can lay our heads and forget about the worries of life. In fact, the pursuit of the concept of home is what drives most of us on, especially in these times of recession when the madness of the Celtic Tiger days is shown up for the false vanity it was.
This week, hundreds of families throughout Galway have lost this place, as the ravages of nature rip through their homes, the water destroying all in its path, and leaving more than just tidemarks on table legs. The watermarks on the psyche run far further, as people wonder if they can ever truly feel safe at home again. And that even when the waters recede, will they have to go through it all again in the future at some undeterminable time when the next bout of rains fall?
In addition, the buildings damaged now will probably become uninsurable in the future, so the pride that the homeowners felt in their prized house will never again be the same.
It really has been a miserable winter — Not content with having eighties style recession, we now are suffering eighties style weather. But what makes this so different is the fact that people no longer have the bit of cash to fall back on in this “rainy day” .The recession and the loss of jobs, income, hours, has left most people operating on a shoestring, in trepidation of next Wednesday week’s Budget. Most have already dipped into their bank accounts to get by. But the option of going to the banks for loans to get over this setback is no longer there for most.
If there is any silver lining to these cloud-covered days, it is the remarkable community spirit that has been shown around the country.
In South Galway, Claregalway, Ballinasloe and elsewhere, people have given of their time to man the flooded roads, to rescue the vulnerable from their homes, fill sandbags to try to stem the flow, to rescue animals that will were left starving in sheds, cut off and to feed the crews. Special praise too must go out to the emergency services and council crews who worked beyond the call of duty across Galway these past few days. People gathered at the water’s edge to use their collective thought to help the needy and to ensure that no lives were lost as more than 100 roads became closed or barely passable.
For those of us merely inconvenienced by the floods, we cannot know the horror of seeing a home destroyed. We hope that the EU will provide some measure of relief for the families affected and that the process of getting this money is made simple.
The days ahead promise more rain, but the intricacies of the water table and the meandering of the rivers means that such a downpour does not automatically result in more floods. For those left homeless, the wait could be much longer as the worst of the winter’s weather is not yet upon us.
Before I finish, I would ask all of you to use your energies to check in on neighbours or contribute in some way to the relief effort in the coming days and weeks.