Lough Funshinagh crisis: Communities beyond breaking point

The ongoing crisis at Lough Funshinagh in County Roscommon has escalated even further, prompting urgent calls for immediate action as residents face severe disruptions due to rising water levels.

The situation has become critical, with homes evacuated and farmland submerged, as stakeholders press for solutions.

In 2021, Roscommon County Council initiated the installation of a flood-relief pipe to address the frequent flooding at Lough Funshinagh, a turlough known for its fluctuating water levels. However, the project was halted following a successful legal challenge by Friends of the Irish Environment (FEI), citing the EU’s Habitats Directive, which aims to protect natural habitats. The directive was incorporated into Irish law in 1997 by then Labour Party Minister, Michael D Higgins.

The recent worsening of conditions has been exacerbated by high winds and rain from Storm Kathleen, leaving approximately 1,300 acres of land underwater, with numerous homes and farms cut off. The increased water levels have led to road closures, adding to the local community’s distress.

Kieran O’Donnell, the Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works (OPW), visited the area last Friday, after his recent appointment following a cabinet reshuffle.

Minister O’Donnell has stated that the Attorney General is currently reviewing options to complete the flood-relief pipe project in the short-term, expressing his commitment to resolving the crisis urgently.

Local residents and the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) are at breaking point, according to IFA Flooding Project Team chair, Brendan Golden.

During a recent emergency meeting, Mr Golden highlighted that the crisis has reached a “crisis point,” necessitating immediate action to protect the community and their livelihoods. The IFA has also requested a meeting with Minister O’Donnell to discuss further actions to alleviate the flooding, particularly concerning the River Shannon.

Councillor Laurence Fallon (Independent), representing the area, has voiced significant concerns about the expanding impact of the flood, which now threatens additional homes and the main road between Rahara and Curraghboy.

According to Cllr Fallon, the area around Curraghboy lies about one metre lower than the current level of Lough Funshinagh, indicating that the flooding is likely to worsen unless substantial measures are taken.

“The situation on the ground is deteriorating rapidly, and this extended flooding will cause major hardship to yet more farmland. Now we are facing the unacceptable situation where more houses are at risk from flooding,” Cllr Fallon stated.

He has called on the government to take decisive action, emphasising the need for immediate water removal and long-term solutions: “The only solution is to remove a significant quantity of water from Lough Funshinagh immediately followed by the rapid implementation of a permanent solution”.

Locally, other councillors have speculated that the deteriorating humanitarian crisis at Lough Funshinagh should sufficiently equip the Government to direct the completion of the works by Roscommon County Council without contravening the current injunction, but as was confirmed by Minister of State O’Donnell, the Attorney General is currently looking into how the pipe can be completed to relieve the flooding.

As the community braces for ongoing challenges, the call for swift governmental action grows louder, with stakeholders from all sides urging for a resolution that will mitigate the flooding and restore normalcy to the affected regions of County Roscommon.