Fallon issues challenge to ‘Friends’ group
This week saw another dark episode in the recent troubles endured by Lough Funshinagh communities as one of the houses severely affected by flooding in the area was demolished. The home, which belonged to the Lyons-O’Meara family, had been badly damaged following severe flooding in 2016 and had been unoccupied in recent years.
Local people gathered outside the house on Monday as construction crews began the grim task of taking down the property.
Local councillor Laurence Fallon said it was another sad day for the local community.
“This is particularly tragic for the Lyons-O’Meara family but it is also tragic for everybody in the area because we have lost a family who have been here for a hundred years. This was the frontline of the flooding and we protected it for a number of years but we lost the battle and now this house is destroyed. But it’s also only the next phase because now it moves on to the two Beattie houses which are only just across the road,” he said.
Cllr. Fallon said there was sadness and shock in the area, adding that it was “extraordinary” that the flooding crisis continues due to “ambiguity in law”.
“We are trying to marry two laws, the European legislation and the Irish legislation. Until they are in harmony there will continue to be judges taking what I would call the easy option and saying no to any efforts to help the people and the environment. It needs to change and it needs to change quickly because it is unthinkable what’s happening,” he said.
Addressing the environmental group, Friends of the Irish Environment, who were successful in a legal action to halt a flood relief scheme in the area, Cllr. Fallon said: “Come down and see what’s going on. Come down and meet the people, some of whom are in their 80s. I think we have ages from six months to 84 years of age living under the duress of this lake,” he said.
“If you’re interested in the protection of the environment, and I would question whether you are, come and see the continued destruction that your action has taken on the environment and come and find a solution with us and we can work together to solve the problem.
“By your actions, you have caused the total destruction of the SAC (Special Area of Conservation), and total hardship to 40 families around the lake. There is no need for this and we can solve it in a very short time. We have 70 per cent of the pipe in and that will only take the excess water and the SAC will return to its natural form and everybody will be a winner, including Friends of the Irish Environment”.
Local resident Padraig Beattie, whose family home is less than 100 metres from the Lyons-O’Meara house, said the demolition was extremely upsetting.
“Our house could be like this house in a couple of years time. We hope it doesn’t (end up the same) but if the pipe isn’t put in in time then it’ll end up flooded,” he said.
The Beatties, whose home was protected by pumps running 24 hours a day at the height of flooding, are dreading another difficult winter.
“There’s nearly drought conditions during the summer and yet the lake is still there. It has gone back, but not enough. We’ll be pumping again during the winter, there’s no doubt about it, whether it’s in December or February it will happen regardless”.
Geraldine Murray, secretary of the Lough Funshinagh Flood Crisis Committee, said that while the demolition of the house was expected, it still arrives as a shock for local residents.
“The community is devastated and you can sense that as you walk around, it’s all doom and gloom on the faces of people as they wait for a digger to arrive to knock down a home. It’s absolutely horrendous and you’re wondering who’s going to be next,” she said.
Geraldine said that while fears remain over other houses in the locality, the Office of Public Works have been supportive.
“The OPW have been working on this and they will meet with us again hopefully in a couple of weeks but we need more than the OPW, we need the whole multi-disciplinary group including the National Parks and Wildlife and Roscommon County Council,” she said.
“We need everyone to sit at a table and implement the plan that has already been initiated and that is the underground pump to pump the excess water off the lough. That facility is almost there. I am aware that there are legal issues but let’s get over them. There is nothing that’s not possible, especially if people are about to lose their homes – which we are”.