The plight of farmers living and working close to Lough Funshinagh in south Roscommon was raised at a public meeting in Lecarrow on Monday night to discuss the future of communities close to the beleaguered lake.
The meeting was chaired by former IFA President Joe Healy, who praised local farmers for coming to the aid of their neighbours during the worst of the flooding.
Teagasc advisor James Kelly had earlier raised the issue of lost land due to rising water levels since 2016.
Accusing the Department of Agriculture of not focusing on the issue, he said: “Farmers have taken a hit on the loss of farmland and on top of that there is stress as well. Farmers have been losing year on year…the issue needs to be addressed with any committee going forward”.
Independent TD Denis Naughten accused the Department of Agriculture of “turning their backs” on those impacted by the flooding. He said the only way to ensure a practical, implementable solution was by getting everyone around the table.
“Speaking privately to (Minister of the OPW) Patrick O’Donovan, he believes that’s what is needed too,” he said.
Fianna Fáil Senator Eugene Murphy said the problem at Lough Funshinagh needed to be solved as quickly as possible and that Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue would visit the area.
“Every week (Minister for Agriculture) Charlie McConalogue gets it in the ear from me and he will be down here as well,” he said.
The Connacht Chair of the IFA, Pat Murphy, said the association had stood with farmers to ensure they were not losing out but called on all parties to solve the issue as quickly as possible.
Former Roscommon IFA Chairperson, Jim O’Connor, said the hinterland of Lough Funshinagh “is effectively dead” and that no food was being produced in the area.
He added that under the Irish Constitution every citizen should be treated equally but that the Lough Funshinagh residents’ rights “had become subservient to EU legislation”.
Mr. O’Connor called on the Government to do whatever needs to be done “as a matter of urgency”.
He warned residents they had an “enormous fight ahead of them” but it was one they would win because they were a “strong, united and resilient community”.
Macra na Feirme President John Keane said had visited the farms of Cllr. Laurence Fallon and local resident Padraig Beattie and the the evidence he saw spoke for itself.
Addressing the public representatives at the top table, he asked: “What right does someone who lives 100 miles away have to object (to flood relief works)”.
He added that this is the reality of what rural Ireland is facing and that young people wanted to live here but faced major deterrents around planning and other issues.
The meeting also heard from local residents and farmers who highlighted the impact the flooding was having on local farms and homes. There was also agreement among those present that a solution at Lough Funshinagh shouldn’t create problems for communities elsewhere.