Murrisk residents had been looking for protection for Bertra for years

Mayo County Council has estimated that it will cost €4.5 million to clean up and repair the damage caused to the county’s coastline by the recent storms. That money will repair and replace damaged public infrastructure along the seaboard, however it is feared that cost could be much more in time. Achill based Fianna Fáil councillor Michéal McNamara said at Monday’s meeting of Mayo County Council: “Judging visually, by the coasts in Clare and Galway and the amount of money they are looking for, I think our estimates on the work required is a little bit low at €4.5 million. Going around Achill itself, I would have estimated to get the place back to normal again would be costing about €2 million.”

Bertra beach was one of the areas that was devastated by the storms, with the entire beach, road, and car park network along the beach being engulfed by the tide. The estimated clean up costs for the car park and roads is €18,000, with the repair work costing up to €50,000. Another €50,000 will be required for safety works on the tombolo at the beach which was completely breached by the tide, while repair works for it are yet unknown and will have to be agreed with the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS ).

The NPWS came in for criticism from a number of members of the council for the way it often dealt with issues. Westport area Fine Gael councillor Peter Flynn hit out at the service saying: “There will probably be a long time legacy fallout from what has happened. Bertra really symbolises some of the problems we are facing. Five years ago the Murrisk residents wrote to every single Government Department and their ministers and the council and every single agency involved in the protection of beaches. They got zero responses and then went through the Westport extended area meeting and they raised the concerns about Bertra and the ongoing potential consequences to Murrisk after that. For years now we have spoken to NPWS, we’ve been threatened if we did anything to the beach, to put up anything to protect the beach there we would be brought to the highest court in Europe. With the result we were forced to get a report, get approved for a budget here, through a process with the wheels going round in circles and nothing happening, and today effectively we have no beach in Bertra, the protection of Murrisk has been severely compromised, and what are we going to do about it? It really shows the way government departments are in this country, where we have one organisation who are completely aloof and can make decisions which can prevent others from taking action.”

It’s then very easy for people not to take responsibility, for not taking decisions and action, but we are paying the consequences for it,” Cllr Flynn added.

Mayo County Council had employed consultants to carry out an assessment on Bertra Beach which has been included as a Special Area of Conservation, but there are fears now that the report will have to be seriously reviewed because of the damage caused by the storms, making a lot of the work outdated.

Cathaoirleach of Mayo County Council, Cllr Austin Frances O’Malley, called for the NPWS to be a lot more lenient on people during these times, saying: “I would ask the NPWS to be a little more lenient because I think down the years they have been a bit too hard on the farming community where they can’t do this, that, or the other. A farmer could hardly bless his face and he’d be told it was the wrong way he did it. They come with the heavy hand all the time on the farming community, and without the farmers nothing happens. We have in the past maintained the countryside to the best standard going and without us, there is nothing doing.”

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