Dail to hear Galway pleas for assistance next week after coastline gets battered

Roads across the county like this one on Inis Mor have been left destroyed with families and communities cut off from vital access. Photo: Robert Kelly

Roads across the county like this one on Inis Mor have been left destroyed with families and communities cut off from vital access. Photo: Robert Kelly

The storm may have passed but the work has only just begun for both Galway city and county councils which now face the daunting task of assessing the full extent of the damage. A report is due to be sent by both local authorities to central Government next week seeking emergency funding which is vital if the necessary repairs are to be carried out.

The National Coordination Group on Recent Severe Weather has requested affected local authorities to submit their estimates of the cost of repairs to Government as part of a preliminary report on the storm damage. According to Minister for State at the OPW Brian Hayes €45 million is available for emergency coastal protection, however it is thought that the amount needed will easily exceed that.

As Galway begins the process of assessing the damage caused by last week’s storm local representatives have been united in their calls for further funding and flood defences to be provided as a matter of urgency. City councillor Catherine Connolly said it was “essential” for a specially funded task force to be set up to deal with the flood damage in the city and for an urgent application for government and/or EU funding to be made based. Councillor Billy Cameron called on the city manager Brendan McGrath to apply for funding from the Office of Public Works under the minor flood mitigation works and coastal protection scheme in order to provide flood barriers for areas such as Fishmarket Square, Flood Street, and Quay Street.

MEP for Midlands North-West, Jim Higgins, confirmed that funding is available at EU level for the clean-up but the Government must apply immediately. MEP Higgins explained that the EU Solidarity Fund has an annual budget of €500 million and provides emergency funding following a major disaster in a member state. He warned that any application must be received by the European Commission within 10 weeks of the date of the first damage caused by the disaster. This was confirmed by Midlands North-West MEP Pat The Cope Gallagher who called on the Government to ascertain as soon as possible from all local and regional authorities the estimated cost of the reconstruction work and submit a proposal to the EU Solidarity Fund.

The cause of funding to be provided for Connemara and the Aran Islands is due to be highlighted in the Dáil next week by Galway West Galway West TD Éamon Ó Cuív who vowed to raise the matter following a visit to the island of Inis Mór. Accompanied by Connemara area councillor Seán Ó Tuairisg the Fianna Fail TD surveyed the damage during a tour of the island yesterday and maintained that his role was to ensure that the Government made the vital funding available in the short to long term so that urgent repairs can be carried out.

In a statement Comharchumann Forbartha Árann Teo reported that millions of euro worth of damage was caused by last week’s storm and urgent action and funding is needed. Inis Mór residents have been left in “dire straits” after what has been described as the worst storm damage in decades. Residents have been left without home heating, fuel, and waste collections service, due to the access road leading to the plant being destroyed by last week’s storm. Sections of the island have been blocked off as a result of coastal flooding leaving many islanders unable to leave their homes and access their lands/animals.

Such is the scale of the damage caused throughout the Connemara region that a meeting of the seven local councillors is expected to take place on Monday morning to ensure that all areas affected will receive the necessary funding. Speaking to the Advertiser Cllr Seasamh Ó Cuaig confirmed that the council will be surveying the different areas affected to see what the damage is and the cost involved and that this will be included in a report sent to central Government requesting funding.

Regarding the damage caused by the “ferocious” storm Cllr Ó Cuaig said that in and around Carna there was very little damage was caused to the homes in terms of loose slates or trees and that it was the piers that took the battering, in particular Roundstone and Ballyconneely. Surfaces on the approaches to piers such as Mace pier, Ardmore, Letterard, were ripped up, and there were also reports of damage from Lettermullen, Lettermore, and the pier in Carraroe, with Spiddal hit hard too. He added that many graveyards in Connemara which are beside the sea were under attack. This included a wall being knocked down and the waves encroaching at Maorus cemetery near Ballynahown. A wall which had been strengthened managed to hold back the sea waves which threatened graves at Moyrus cemetery near Carna. Council staff have been busy clearing debris and making roads passable down to the piers. A statement from Galway County Council said that staff “have been responding, as needed and as conditions allowed, during recent weeks to the unprecedented stormy conditions. The impact of the stormy weather has been severe with serious damage caused to a range of infrastructure including roads, piers and harbours, sea wall defences, burial grounds, playgrounds, beaches, public lighting, and amenities. The damage has been particularly severe along the county’s coastline and on our islands, with more minor damage also being reported from inland flooding.”

Senior engineer Liam Gavin explained that towards the east of the county there is still concern regarding the River Clare which flows into Claregalway and River Suck which flows into Ballinasloe. Although there has been no flooding of these rivers yet, the water levels are very high and the council is monitoring the situation. There has been flooding along minor roads throughout the county but council staff had managed to clear most of them by yesterday.

Mr Gavin further explained that on the west side of the county there was extensive damage caused to footpaths along the seafront in Spiddal with a portion of the path “literally uprooted”. The walls along the side of the causeway linking Gorumna island to the mainland at Lettermore “took a hammering”. Further west, at Toombeola the wall beside the sea was damaged, and further on, the retaining wall at Ballyconneely pier was torn down and two houses were flooded. There was flooding on the road leading from Ballyconneely into Clifden and a number of roads near Errislannan peninsula damaged. A number of cars were also washed out to sea at Cleggan Pier. There was extensive damage caused to Inisbofin lighthouse and along the coastline, and on the Aran islands of Inis Mór and Inis Oírr a number of roads along the coastline and piers were damaged.

Regarding graveyards, Mr Gavin said that Carraroe and Ballynahown were “badly affected” with the sea wall in the latter being demolished. Roads leading to the graveyard at Gurteen Bay in Roundstone were cut off. However, it was confirmed that no interference with remains has occurred, and although there is no immediate danger council staff are looking at protecting a number of graves which are located near to the sea walls. At time of going to press two roads at Errislannan were still “badly cut off”.

Meanwhile, Sinn Fein senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh has called on the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney to bail out fishermen devastated by storms. Senator Ó Clochartaigh described how small inshore fishermen have been devastated by the recent storms with boats being destroyed, tackle being washed away, and critical infrastructure such as roads, piers, and slipways has been severely affected. He has called on the Minister to ensure that the National Co-ordinating Group for Severe Weather takes account of the situation of inshore fishermen

 

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