Galway farmer speaks out on ‘mental strain’ of flooding

A Co. Galway farmer has spoken of the mental strain of dealing with flooding, which he said “takes the heart out of farming”.

Micheal Cahill, who has a mixed farm with sheep and sucklers on 130ac in Kiltartan, near Gort, has been affected by winter flooding five times since 1995. He said: “The river goes underground near my land, and it can’t take the flow of water coming from the mountains.

“It’s like when a bathtub fills up with water. Mine is the first farm in its path, and it flows right through the yard like a river. All the farm buildings get flooded.

“You know that every winter you will be facing that threat once there is a certain level of rainfall.

“You can’t make any plans because you’re under threat from November to March,” Cahill said.

“I used to have a system of early spring lambing, but I had to change that. I had to get stock out, and get accommodation for them, overland, twice in 2015.

“I have come close to losing stock in moving water – which is very dangerous – in the past.

“I have got very cynical about what is supposed to be being done about the flooding problem. I would love to know who is responsible for providing solutions.

Cahill explained that he has received a letter from the Department of Agriculture about assessments for remedial works, but that it would not help in his situation.

Dealing with it has nearly cracked me up. I’m full-time farming all my life, and it takes the heart out of it.

“There were no flooding problems here for 100 years. The first time was in 1995 and it’s steadily getting worse.”

Action on flooding

The Office of Public Works is currently reviewing the criteria for its Minor Flood Mitigation Works and Coastal Protection Funding Scheme, the Department of Agriculture has confirmed to AgriLand. The scheme is available to local authorities to undertake flood protection works.

A spokesman for the department said: “If the proposed changes are approved, it will enable greater access for local authorities to fund minor flood protection schemes for the protection of farmyards and farm land.”

As part of the proposed once-off, targeted, and prioritised voluntary homeowners’ relocation scheme, the recommended administrative arrangements will identify those farmyard buildings to be evaluated on an individual basis, the department said.

This will determine if any alternative remedial works can be undertaken to protect at-risk farm buildings, providing information on the feasibility of any future once-off targeted scheme for voluntary farm building relocation, the spokesman said.

“This is being progressed at present to determine the feasibility of any future scheme and prepare the potential criteria,” the statement said.

IFA Flood Project Chairman, Padraic Joyce, said he would welcome any measures that would speedily alleviate the hardship being caused by repeated flooding to farmers and rural dwellers.