Veteran urges flood victims to unite and form action group

Galway woman recalls 1995 downpour and families’ fight for compensation

An aerial view of flooding in Galway this weekend. Photograph: Irish Air Corps Galway

An aerial view of flooding in Galway this weekend. Photograph: Irish Air Corps Galway

 

There was a sense of deja vu for Attracta O’Regan when floods struck south Galway before Christmas – 21 years after her home and business were destroyed in similar downpours.

Ms O’Regan helped to form an action group in south Galway during the floods of 1995, which helped local people rebuild their livelihoods.

She advised communities currently struggling to cope with flooding to similarly rally together and form an action group.

Help was available through councils and community officers, she said, adding: “Be prepared for a long battle and a lot of patience.”

Ms O’Regan said it was difficult to explain the emotional turmoil families and business owners experienced during flooding.

“It was February and we woke up one morning and there was approximately a foot of water in our home,” she said of the floods in 1995.

“That increased to about three foot over a number of weeks. So we moved out.”

After the devastation of the floods, she wrote a letter to The Irish Times and decided to battle for compensation.

“I did write a letter to The Irish Times and that was the start of it all,” she said.

There were about 22 other families in a similar situation so together they created the South Galway Flooding Action Group.

“We took a firm stand that we were not going back to our houses. We lobbied quite strenuously,” she said.

“But eventually after over a year and a half, we agreed a scheme of arrangement.

“We were provided with a level of compensation, so we could demolish our homes and start our lives in a place that wouldn’t flood in the future.”

She said about 20 families took up the offer, which included families with farms who had lived in their homes for generations.