Threat of serious flooding leaves farmers ‘living in fear’

Farmers are eager to see work get underway on changes to the Office of Public Work’s (OPW’s) Minor Flood Mitigation Works and Coastal Protection Funding Scheme.

Chairman of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) Padraic Joyce welcomed the move to increase the upper financial threshold from €500,000 to €750,000 per project but said more funding was needed.

Minister of State with responsibility for the OPW and Flood Relief Sean Canney recently announced a number of changes to the scheme following a review.

Joyce said: “Farm buildings and yards will also be included as commercial premises in all categories; something the IFA has always been looking for. That will help towards reinstating or putting up flood barriers.

They are steps in the right direction, but in 70% of places work hasn’t begun and flooding will be an issue again.

“Farmers want to see machines out there, working.

“They want to see work being done by the local authorities and the OPW,” the Connacht IFA chairman said.

“We recognise that a lot of research and work has to be carried out by engineers beforehand, but things need to start moving.

“There are farmers around some of the turloughs in Roscommon and Galway, who would like to see more geological work done on those turloughs, which have only gone down a small amount.”

Joyce said that a small amount of work had been done on the Shannon Maintenance Scheme but more needed to be done. He added: “Flooding leaves devastation, not alone for the damage caused to buildings, but also to the land which may be flooded for three months.

“The grass dies off and the farmer is left in a predicament as to whether they should go to the expense of reseeding it.

“There is always a possibility that the same thing will happen again, and I have seen that at first hand in Galway and Roscommon.”

According to Galway IFA Chairman Pat Murphy, many farmers are living in fear of the return of serious flooding. He said: “Living with that constant threat is an absolute nightmare.

“It affects farmers and householders all around me in south Galway. There is a sense of helplessness because it is an act of nature, and people are relying on the state to try and alleviate the problem.

“We have seen the EU directives around Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) but we don’t want to drain the turloughs; we want an overflow system,” Murphy said.

Flooding destroys the environment by creating extra pollution – there has to be more common sense to try to prevent it during the wet winters, and blockages need to be cleared.

“Farmers have had several years of flooding problems – 1995, 2001, 2009 and 2015/2016 – and are so worried about their houses, their land and their crops,” he said.

A huge voluntary community effort in his own area in 2010 cleared blockages and widened channels.

“That worked on a small scale and shows what can be achieved on a bigger scale,” Murphy said.

“At the height of the flooding on January 1, 2016, the council and the OPW gave us the emergency go-ahead for channel digging and we got in local contractors to do the work.”

He added: “If people can see work being done, it gives them hope that they can live in their own homes and work on their own farms, without having to again face the disastrous situations of past years.”