Local Independent Deputy, Denis Naughten, is seeking an urgent Government meeting to explore all possible options following a recent High Court injunction obtained by The Friends of the Irish Environment which has halted essential flood relief works at Lough Funshinagh to the west of Lough Ree in South Roscommon.
In a detailed letter to OPW Minister, Deputy Patrick O’Donovan and Minister for Housing, Deputy Darragh O’Brien, Deputy Naughten stated that the current situation may leave the community with no option but to relocate from their homes due to the increased threat of flooding.
“The current situation could leave the community in a position where they could be forced to relocate from their homes due to the annually increasing threat of flooding which in itself is doing serious environmental damage to the turlough, its flora and fauna.
“This also creates a potentially serious precedent which could have far reaching implications for climate mitigation measures across the country.
“I have already been in contact with both Ministers who are fully aware of the fact that the measures which have been undertaken to date are solely to protect the homes and families and will have no impact whatsoever on the environmental management of the turlough.
“These climate mitigation works will only bring about what has traditionally been the natural removal of water from the turlough and we now need to explore with both Ministers how we can bring legal clarity to these mitigation measures, provide the local community with reassurance regarding its survival and also provide certainty for other communities facing similar threats in future,” Deputy Naughten asserted.
The Ministerial meeting request from Deputy Naughten stemmed from news that Roscommon County Council can no longer proceed with further flood relief works at Lough Funshinagh until environmental studies have been undertaken and completed.
The thoughts of Deputy Naughten were firmly echoed by constituency Independent colleague, Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice noting that the decision to indefinitely halt works at Lough Funshinagh was a “sad day for Ireland”.
“It is extremely disappointing that the imperative works at Lough Funshinagh to protect peoples’ homes and livelihoods have now been halted without even the opportunity for the case to be heard.
“The reality of this situation is that our President, Michael D Higgins, signed the Habitats Directive which I and many others that were affected by it early on in communities where designations occurred warned of the consequences for local communities and beyond.
“Today’s development is a damning indictment of the Habitats Directive. One would now have to question the foresight of our current President when he signed in this directive in his previous role as a Minister - he obviously didn’t consider the wide-ranging impact it would have.
“The consequences of what this is doing to local communities and our country is unbelievable - not alone in the impact it could have on the remedial works referred to already, but in the construction of homes or roads, in dealing with flooding, in developing infrastructure which affects our local communities.
“If the project at Lough Funshinagh has to be the subject of ‘red tape’ and environmental assessments, these works won’t be completed for three years. How many more homes will be flooded in the meantime?,” Deputy Fitzmaurice remarked.
High Court Decision
At a recent court sitting, during which legal representatives for the local authority stated that the Council acted for urgent humanitarian reasons to prevent flooding in exercise of its powers, it was now accepted that there were further obligations under the Environmental Directives with which the Council must comply.
A statement released by Roscommon County Council noted that Mr. Justice Simons of the High Court commended the Council’s approach to the litigation.
‘The situation arose because the obligations under EU environmental law have not been transposed in respect of the Local Authorities (Works ) Act, 1949.
‘In this regard, Roscommon County Council has been left with no option but to accept that flood relief works at Lough Funshinagh cannot continue until environmental studies have been undertaken. The Council will not spend any more valuable time on litigation, but instead will move forward with environmental assessments as soon as possible.
‘It is disappointing that it is going to take a bit longer to deliver a solution to the flooding hardship that the local community has to continue to endure. The Council deeply regrets that the expectations of the local community have been dashed. It was always the case that the works were being carried out to protect and keep the community safe.’