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winter storms

'We couldn't go home for five months after the floods. We're in fear it could happen again'

Fianna Fáil are calling for a UK-style flood insurance scheme to be introduced here.
Every day I wake up and look out at the turlough and the first thought in my head every morning is to look out and see if it’s flooded.

CAROLINE COLLINS AND her three daughters were forced to flee their home in Castleplunkett County Roscommon when heavy rains and a succession of storms last year resulted in the entire area being flooded.

The family was unable to access their home for five months due to the road to their house being under four feet of water.

Collins was only able to access her home via boat, with help from the Roscommon Civil Defence, to collect her belongings.

Winter weather Dec 10th 2015 An aerial view of floods near Athlone Co Westmeath last December. Niall Carson Niall Carson

Fearful floods will return this winter 

It wasn’t until the end of April they were finally able to return, however as winter approaches, Caroline said she and he family are in fear it could happen all over again.

“It was a living nightmare,” explained Collins.

“There is a real fear element it could happen again.”

download (17) Caroline and her daughter getting to her home by boat. Paschal Fitzmaurice Paschal Fitzmaurice

Eamon Leonard, also from Roscommon, said his farmyard was completely flooded last year when the water on the road reached seven feet.

“It’s happened three times since 1990 – but last year the rain came on 12 December and the flooding didn’t go until the last day in April,” he explained.

Leonard, who doesn’t live on the farm, said he was very worried last year as he had cows calving. He said he didn’t know what to expect every morning when he would make his way to work.

Farmyard under water 

“I had no idea whether there would be access to the cattle in the shed.

“The whole farmyard, under water. It was a nightmare to deal with. It went on for months,” he said.

When asked if he is worried of what might come this winter, he said:

“Absolutely, there is such fear around.”

However, he said he thinks “the penny has dropped” with the local council, stating that local authority officials have been around the town visiting locals, assessing what happened last year and planning ahead for this year.

Evan Curran, also from Roscommon, said while a lot of work by the local council has been taking place over the last few months, it was the local flood group set up by local residents that really drove the improvements to the area.

“I had built a new house last year when the floods happened. The driveway flooded, but luckily the rain had stopped by the time it was about to enter the house, so we were able to get on top of it,” he said.

Local flood group 

No one expected that amount of rain last year. In July of this year, we decided to set up the local flood group, which has been in touch with the council, and local TDs, so hopefully there is a plan in place this year.

Leonard and Curran said locals in the area are particularly concerned about their elderly neighbours, some of whom were completely cut-off by the floods last year.

“There were a lot of elderly people totally isolated in this area. There is huge fear out there and pensioners in particular are very anxious,” explained Curran.

Winter weather Dec 31st 2015 Taoiseach Enda Kenny aboard a tractor trailer as he toured the area of Carrick-On-Shannon last winter. Brian Lawless Brian Lawless

Politicians out in force 

The devastation caused by the floods last December brought politicians out in force to inspect the damage and meet the locals.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and the then Tanaiste Joan Burton were photographed in (and out) of boats  inspecting the damage the Shannon river had caused.

31/12/2015. Severe Weather Conditions Former Tanaiste Joan Burton visited Thomastown in County Kilkenny last winter when she fell out of a canoe. Eamonn Farrell Eamonn Farrell

So, what is the government doing to prevent last year’s devastation from happening again?

Last week, Taoiseach Enda Kenny visited Craughwell in Country Galway with the Minister of State with special responsibility for the Office of Public Works and Flood Relief, Seán Canney.

The area was completely flooded last year, with many houses severely damaged, due to the overflowing of the nearby turlough.

Winter weather Dec 10th 2015 An aerial view of floods at Shannon Bridge Niall Carson Niall Carson

Speaking to the media last week, Kenny said he was happy to report the OPW, council and engineers are doing very significant works in the area, though he said they would take up to three years to complete.

He said the initiative in Galway is just one of 12 major schemes that are underway – with 23 schemes at design and development stage. These works will protect a further 9,000 houses that are deemed to be at risk of flooding, he said.

Winter weather Dec 31st 2015 Brian Lawless Brian Lawless

During the launch of the Be Winter Ready campaign, the government announced there is to be a roll out of a home relocation scheme for some homeowners whose houses were badly damaged in last year’s floods.

Kenny said the scheme is targeted and “very specific”.

Home relocation scheme 

“Some houses, older houses, with no foundations have been flooded very badly in the last year and people do not want to return to these homes,” said the Taoiseach.

Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Flood Relief Eugene Murphy has given a cautious welcome to the recommendations to relocate families living in flood prone areas.

“People in Roscommon, Galway, Longford and Westmeath feel extremely let down by this government, and this plan, while a step in the right direction, simply does not go far enough,” explained Murphy.

“This government needs to start focusing its flood relief efforts on prevention and protection measures, rather than seeking out quick-fix approaches.

“This plan will cost €5 million. That is nowhere near what is required to effectively deal with the problem,” he added.


The Taoiseach outlined that he has also been in touch with the EU Commission and specifically the European Commissioner for Agriculture, Phil Hogan, requesting aid for some farms whose business was impacted by flooding last winter.

These are obviously more difficult to move, said Kenny.

“The department used to have a scheme here where there was 75% grant assistance for that, but that has gone because part of the rural development scheme from a European point of view where farming in seen as a business. We hope to pursue in getting assistance for a small number of farmyards and dairies in that regard,” he added.

Flood insurance 

Today, Fianna Fáil is launching its plans to tackle the problem of flood victims not being able to acquire home insurance.

The Flood Insurance Bill 2016 will ensure that insurance providers will not be allowed to discriminate against home and business owners in areas with the standard one in 100 year flood risk or better.

“In addition, our bill will provide for an appeals mechanism to the Financial Services Ombudsman for those who have been denied insurance cover on the basis of flood risk,” said a party spokesperson.

“It is measures like these, and not token gestures, that are needed to effectively deal with this important issue,” concluded Murphy.

Read: Sinn Féin says it won’t cost as much as people think to bring about a united Ireland>

Read: Winston Churchill spoke of his “longing” for a united Ireland>

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