Floods in Galway: ‘We’re tired and distressed beyond words’

Residents voice frustration and anger over response to flooding in the county

Bridie Willers at her flooded house at Grannagh, Ardrahan in Galway. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy.

Bridie Willers at her flooded house at Grannagh, Ardrahan in Galway. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy.

 

Ann Connolly never thought she’d spend Christmas crossing saturated fields, as lake waters lapped around the walls of the house that she was born in.

“I am here 74 years, and this turlough never gave us any trouble before the wind farm and the tree felling on the Slieve Aughty mountains,” Ms Connolly said.

“I had to come out on Christmas Eve . . . the water was pouring down from Coole and Gort and Kiltartan, and Caherglissaun turlough was like a sea,”she said.

“Everything had to be taken out [of the house] – we even took off some of the doors,” she said.

Back in 2009, the Connolly farm at Ballinastague in south Galway was one of a number flooded by swollen streams.

Ms Connolly was forced then to leave her home, and she moved into a rented house in Labane village.

She says she was reassured that it was a “one-off weather event”.

Her daughter Anita, back from London for Christmas, recalls how the house was refitted after 2009 and her mother returned home.

“We made sure everything was easier to move out, but we never thought this would happen again so soon,” she said.

“My mother was marooned and we had to help her to leave and stay with us in Kinvara.

“Her health has not been good, and this has added to her stress.”

Staff from the Office of Public Works (OPW) arrived with sandbags to secure the Connolly home in the past two days, and generators were shifted in to run a series of pumps.

“We have been taking it in turns to run the pumps, and one of my brothers has been sleeping there on the sofa at night, but from Monday morning to Monday night the water level had risen by nine inches,” Ms Connolly said.

“It is very frustrating and very hard to understand why we are getting so much water, and we don’t believe it is just the weather,” she said.

“When the turlough rose here in 1990, it ran onto the road, and in 1995 into the front garden, but 2009 was the most serious until now.

“We can’t help thinking that the wind farm, and the clearing of forestry associated with that, and perhaps the construction work on the new Gort-Tuam motorway, has contributed to a situation where all the flood waters are landing in on top of us,” she said.

“We’ve gone to various State bodies to try and get a better understanding, but people do not appreciate what we are going through.

“It is physically very frightening and our mental health is at stake.”

Bridie’s story

Former Fine Gael councillor Bridie Willers had to call the Civil Defence on December 26th, when the water came up through the floor of her 250-year-old house at Grannagh, near Ardrahan in south Galway.

“No one can say I built on a flood plain, when so many generations of my family have lived here,”she said.

“ I had to leave here in 2009, I had to leave in 2014, and now I’m out again . . . for how long, I don’t know,” Ms Willers said.

Ms Willers is among some 30 families in the south Galway area who have had to seek shelter with relatives and friends.

“The Civil Defence and the OPW lads have been great with sandbags, but sandbags are no good with this type of water bubbling up through the ground,”she said.

“It’s mind boggling to think that they can’t find a solution to the way the rains rush off the Slieve Aughty mountains, and south Galway gets hit again and again,” she said.

“We have thousands of acres of land flooded and roads washed away.

“We have no joined up thinking, only piecemeal solutions that push the problem elsewhere, and then any plan is objected to by environmentalists,” Ms Willers said.

“We are all in favour of turloughs and wildlife but people have to be able to live here too.

“We’re tired, depressed, distressed beyond words . . . and if only it would stop raining.”