About 1,500 attend protest over Bandon’s flood defences
‘Guts of two years’ wasted since Government sought tenders for scheme, says speaker
Flooding in Bandon as a result of Storm Desmond. Photograph: Denis Boyle
Bandon came to a standstill on Monday night when up to 1,500 people marched through the town and called on the Government to deliver immediately on the town’s flood relief scheme to prevent any repeat of the flooding which damaged dozens of businesses and homes over the weekend.
The rally, organised by the Friends of Bandon, heard Eddie Goggin, editor of the monthly magazine, The Opinion, issue an unequivocal message to the Government that there should be no further delays and work should start on the flood relief scheme early next year.
“Tonight Bandon has spoken and we have sent out a clear message to Minister of State for the OPW [Office of Public Works], Simon Harris – you have within your grasp to sign off the scheme next January and once you do that, it should be full steam ahead for the Bandon flood relief scheme,” he said.
Mr Goggin said that “the guts of two years” had been wasted since the OPW sought tenders in November 2013 only for a contractor who did not make the shortlist to threaten legal action in the spring of 2014 and the OPW withdrew the tender documents.
Since then the OPW has been promising that the scheme would be put back out to tender but it was only last month that tender documents were sent out, resulting in no work taking place to date and the town being left exposed to the flooding that hit it on Saturday night, he said.
Mr Goggin said that he had been looking back through The Opinion archives at the numerous floods that had hit the town over the years.
“After each flood, it was comical to read the comments of politicians and local government officials where they promised the sun, moon and stars and we would be getting all sorts of schemes but the reality is the only ones looked after in this town in the last 40 years are the fish in the river.”
Mr Goggin paid tribute to the emergency services, in particular fire crews from Bandon, Kinsale and Clonakilty who were supported by the army, civil defence and gardaí as well as local farmers who worked tirelessly to prevent even worse flooding over the weekend.
He also paid tribute to the resilience of the 50 or so traders whose businesses were damaged in the flood but who had reopened their premises.
“What a sight to come down the streets and see the shops back in business – well done to the traders for showing such resilience.”
‘Matter of urgency’
Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works, Simon Harris said earlier that the OPW is “progressing the Bandon project as a matter of urgency” with work due to commence in 2016 with completion scheduled for 2018.
Mr Harris’s predecessor, Brian Hayes had previously promised in 2011 and again in 2012 that work would commence on the project.
The flood relief scheme consists in the main of new walls and embankments, deepening the bed of the River Bandon by 1.5m through the town downstream for more than 3kms, replacement of a pedestrian bridge, new fish passages as well as the construction of new pumping stations.
Mr Harris said the flood relief scheme “will bring flood protection to approximately 390 properties [177 residential] currently at risk from what is known as a 100-year flood event, which is the standard level of protection provided.”
Local councillor Margaret Murphy O’Mahony called on Irish Water to resume work on the Bandon Main Drainage Scheme incorporating pumping stations as quickly as possible as it would also help alleviate the risk of flooding.
Among those who attended the rally in Bandon were Mick Moriarty and Ger Buckley of the Blackpool Flood Committee and Michael Thornton from Skibbereen Flood Action Group who said they wanted to show solidarity with the people of Bandon.