Family lose home and smokehouse to storm and flood in Connemara

Sea was “up to windowsill level”

A cyclist makes his way through the flooded road at Salthill this morning during the high tide and stormy winds. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

A cyclist makes his way through the flooded road at Salthill this morning during the high tide and stormy winds. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

Tue, Jan 7, 2014, 13:02


Connemara Smokehouse proprietors Graham and Saoirse Roberts woke several days ago to an early morning phone call from a neighbour who advised them not to open their front door.

“I looked out and the sea was up to windowsill level, “Graham Roberts recalled yesterday as he tried to assess the full impact of his flooded home and storm-damaged business in Ballyconneely, Co Galway.

“We waited until the tide receded, and then we all had to leave.” The Roberts and their four children haven’t been able to move back since, apart from short forays between tides to gather clothes and schoolbooks. They have lost their car and van, and the smokehouse has been badly damaged.

The smokehouse, which employs a full and part-time team of 13, recently secured one of of 12 Coq d’Or awards awarded annually by the French Guides des Gourmands on food producers, restaurateurs, and delicatessen owners.

The storm
“The corner of the smokehouse roof was ripped off in the storm late last week and the waves smashed the electrics,” Mr Roberts said. “It’s one thing to try and take that in, but our home is something else,” he said.

“We and neighbours had been on to the council for the past 15 years to carry out work on a storm wall in front of our houses. It will now cost an awful lot more because that work wasn’t carried out,” he points out.

The protective wall dates from 1956, and was built after a storm caused destruction in the previous decade.

“It would have taken about €5,000 to €6,000 to case and concrete the wall before it broke,” he said. “I pay my taxes and rates and have no problem with that, but we should then get the services in return.”

The home and business are about half a mile apart, and the couple, whose four children are aged between eight and 13, have been moving between both as they try to pick up the pieces.

Yesterday’s gale and violent sea surges “gave us another lash”, he said. “Neighbours have been wonderful,” Mr Roberts added, pausing to talk to one man who offered to help fix his roof.

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