Eight Donegal families whose houses were devastated in flash floods last August have been told they will not be returning to their homes this year.
The families, from the Pairc An Grianan estate in Burnfoot, had to flee their homes on August 22nd but were initially told they would be back in time for Christmas.
The houses are guarded around the clock by a security company, which is paid for by Donegal County Council. However, from next Monday that service is to be withdrawn and the news has sparked fears that the dwellings could become targets for anti-social behaviour and vandalism.
The families have been given a deadline of next Monday to remove their belongings, which are currently being stored upstairs in the houses.
“The houses will be locked after that,” says Claire Molloy, who has lived in the estate with her parents for the last 15 years. “We’ve been told that we can get a skip, but people don’t want to just dump their belongings either. We don’t know what the long-term plan is. All we know is that nothing will happen in 2018.”
The Molloys are now living in a house owned by the family in Burnfoot, which has needed extensive upgrade works.
“We’ve had to do it up to make it liveable. We have no other option, but to stay there,” Ms Molloy said.
Una McLaughlin, who has four children aged between six and 18, has been staying in a house that the council has leased until March 21st which is up for sale.
She says she has “no clue what’s going to happen us” once the lease expires, given she cannot move back to Pairc An Grianan.
“My kids want to know when they’re going home,” she said. “We have to empty the contents of the house and we have nowhere to go with our stuff.
“It’s very unsatisfactory and very disheartening. We have been through enough since August.”
She added: “You wouldn’t mind if they would come and tell you the house was being knocked down and being rebuilt, but we have no explanation at all.”
Cllr Paul Canning, of Fianna Fáil, an architect, has prepared a report on the council-owned estate, in which he says the authority should demolish six of the eight houses.
Ms McLaughlin said her husband was told “that money would not be an object and he was assured that we would be back in our home again.”
Meanwhile, the Minister of State with responsibilty for flooding, Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran, says the refurbishment of homes and houses for local authority tenants is a matter for Donegal County Council.
In a statement, Mr Moran confirmed that the OPW was reassessing the possible options to manage the risk of flooding in Burnfoot in light of flooding last August and again in December.
He said consultants had been commissioned to undertake a review. “Over the coming weeks, the consultants will be reviewing the hydrology, updating the hydraulic model, revising the flood maps and re-assessing possible engineering options,” he said.
“Subject to the outcomes of this review, expected by early Summer, the OPW will re-assess the possible options to manage the risk and the economic viability of these options.”
Separately, Donegal County Council said it was in discussions with the residents regarding the safety of the houses while they are unoccupied.
“Donegal County Council can confirm that we are planning to secure the houses, which were flooded at Pairc an Grianan in Burnfoot on 22 August 2017, for the medium to long term period,” a spokesman said.
“We are currently awaiting the outcome of the report from the CFRAMS (Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management study) and following this a decision will be made in relation to the future of these houses.”