It is certainly not going to be a very happy Christmas for many homeowners and businesspeople in Galway who are yet again suffering the effects of severe flooding around the county following the weekend storm. It is a case of déjá vu for many people who have been in this situation numerous times before. Indeed there has been a campaign on-going since 1995 to have drainage work carried in south Galway, and 20 years later the situation remains the same.
In the space of 24 hours Galway received one month’s worth of rain, which caused widespread flooding with further flooding occurring as surface waters continue to drain into rivers resulting in perilously high water levels. Galway City and County Council staff, the emergency services, and members of the Defence Forces have been working flat out, alongside residents and business owners, to combat the flooding and begin the clean-up process.
South Galway has once again been badly hit, the worst affected areas are Craughwell - where the village has been blocked off for days - Kinvara, Kilbeacanty, Gort, Kilcolgan, and Ballinderrin. In the east of the county, a number of houses flooded in Ballinasloe at the weekend, and the area is still under a boil water notice, while the Portumna to Tynagh road was impassable from yesterday (Wednesday ) morning, and there are concerns that Portumna will experience rising water levels in the next 24 hours as the Shannon continues to rise due to the continuing inclement weather. In north Galway, lands in the Ballygar, Williamstown, and Glenamaddy areas are all under water.
Indeed, the question being asked by many is where are our politicians and why is drainage work not being prioritised? It appears to take dramatic events such as Storm Desmond for the subject to receive any attention. The Minister for the Office of Public Works, Simon Harris, confirmed on Tuesday that funding of six million euro has been ringfenced for flood relief measures to be implemented along the Dunkellin river. A decision from An Bord Pleanála on the public infrastructure scheme is expected in the next week. This is of cold comfort to locals around Kilcolgan whose homes are flooded once again this week.
On Tuesday the Government launched a €5 million fund to help businesses which will be administered by the Irish Red Cross. The Department of Social Protection is also operating an outreach programme to assist families whose homes have been flooded. This news has been welcomed by Galway West Fine Gael TD Sean Kyne.
Meanwhile Fianna Fáil TD for Galway East Colm Keaveney has slammed the Office of Public Works for rejecting an application by Galway County Council in August this year to carry out drainage work from Grannagh to Blackrock in Peterswell. The OPW refused on the basis that it ‘was not possible to adequately determine the benefits that would be derived from the proposed works’. Deputy Keaveney is calling on Minister Harris to urgently review the situation and ensure that this flooding blackspot is addressed. “These latest floods could have been prevented had proper flood reliefs been put in place.”
Deputy Keaveney says it is unbelievable that the situation has been allowed come to this yet again. “This is one of the routes that is now submerged under water. This Government has completely abandoned people in south Galway. They are now facing into another lengthy clean-up process in the weeks before Christmas. For many, their Christmas has been ruined. What is most galling is the fact that this flooding was predicted and could have been prevented if the Government had made the money available to carry out the necessary flood works. Homeowners need to be spared this trauma and anguish.”
At present the OPW is undertaking a public consultation process on the draft flood maps which focus on 300 areas identified in 2011 which are at potentially significant risk from flooding. The areas in Galway include Ahasgragh, Athenry, Ballinasloe, Claregalway, Clifden, Corrofin, the city, Gort, Kinvara, Loughrea, Oranmore, Oughterard, Portuma, Roundstone and Tuam.
Former Fine Gael councillor Bridie Willers’ Ardrahan home has been flooded twice. She was forced to move out in 2009 and again in 2014. Her home has not been submerged yet but with water rising rapidly in the area, and the rain showing no sign of abating, she is fiercely worried. “It is very stressful watching water rising beside you and knowing it may happen again. We are at high risk here with the amount of rain it is making. I never thought this would happen again so quickly. In 2014 it was late January, early February - this is very early in the winter for the water to be this high. I can’t forsee what is going to happen but I am hoping for a miracle.”
She says people do not realise the extent of the problem. “It is obviously all over the news now but when the coverage dies down again, the problem will still be there. It is a priority now while it is happening but I do wonder if the will is there to implement solutions. It is very frustrating that it is happening time and time again when a solution is there. All you hear is it does not meet the cost/benefit analysis. I go mad when I hear that. That is rubbish.”
She sums the effects of flooding up in one line “It is an awful way to live.”