LAST year he spent thousands of euro trying to rebuild the flood defences close to his home, but Storm Eleanor has left North Clare farmer Richard O’Shea sitting back on square one again.
The money he invested wasn’t easily available to him and he is disappointed that he can get no support, as he tries to carry out necessary repairs once again.
Richard lives close to the sea in the townland of Bartra, an idyllic spot when the weather is calm, but a place that takes a battering from the Atlantic when the increasingly frequent storms strike.
While his house is a little bit back from where the sea meets land, the road to it is very close to the edge. With his defences badly damaged by Storm Eleanor, Richard is frightened that another storm could potentially leave his home inaccessible by car.
Seeing the work he carried out washed away on January 2 was a very frustrating experience.
“Last year, I had machines in, I spent my own money that I had saved up to try and rebuild the wall. Last week, the storm took everything. It’s devastated. All the work of last year is gone. Now I’m left to start all over again. At the moment, as you can see, all I have is a wheelbarrow and a shovel.”
Huge sums have been spent on repairing the damage that struck Lahinch. Richard is very disappointed that some supports haven’t been made available to people living along the coast.
“There is €3 million for Lahinch, for a car park where people come, lick ice-creams, go for a walk and go home. I’m faced with a situation where, one day, I won’t be able to get home.
“There’s nothing available, so here I am filling the hole with a wheelbarrow, while they are spending millions there.”
On the day Richard met The Clare Champion, the task facing him was clearly massive, trying to move a significant amount of large stones into place, with no machinery. While it will take a long time to make much progress in such a fashion, he fears that nature could wreak more havoc in the very near future.
“The fear is that the storms haven’t finished yet. Not until after St Brigid’s Day and there is a full moon on January 30, so there is potentially another high tide. Three days before or after a new moon or a full moon you can get high winds and high tides potentially.”
With little to protect his roadway, he worries serious damage could occur. “If another tide comes and the destruction keeps on going now, my defences are already open. There is only soil now; there is only four feet to the road.”
It makes the North Clare farmer very nervous. “There is fear, there is great fear. I had to park my car at the top of the road [at the time of Storm Eleanor] and walk because I was in fear I wouldn’t be able to drive in or out. I live my life in fear. I wrote to the Minister for the Marine Michael Creed last year and I got no response. In my email I said I was a man living in fear of the next storm. I’m still living in fear.
“I guess what I’m asking for is a bit of help. A bit of help, a bit of support. If this road goes, I can’t get into my house. That’s a simple fact, that’s the reality.”
Coverage of the storms of recent years have often included images of waves striking Lahinch but have failed to present the reality of individuals living close to the coast, he feels.
“I live opposite Lahinch and I see those pictures in the Irish Times, which are lovely to look at, but it doesn’t tell the full story. This is the truth, this is the reality. This is the vulnerability I am exposed to.”
Summing up, he adds, “The frustration is that they are spending money on a car park and what about the likes of me? I know there are other farmers like me that are having the same problems. We just seem to be abandoned and forgotten about.”
By Owen Ryan