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South Galway still reeling in aftermath of floods

The flooded level crossing north of Gort town last month.  Photograph by Brendan QuinnA month on, communities in South Galway are still feeling the effects of the unprecedented flooding in the county.
The deputy mayor of County Galway, Councillor Bridie Willers was forced to leave her home one month ago. The Labane woman is still unable to return to her home.
“I don’t expect to be back in the house until early in the New Year. It is drying out but we had to put in a new floor. I’m still living in a neighbour’s house,” Bridie explained.
Bridie and her family will go to her daughter’s home for Christmas dinner.
“In many ways I am looking forward to the year being over. Next year can’t be any worse. I have never been out of my house on Christmas and I would never dream of going away for Christmas,” she continued.
“We have to grin and bear it. It is the same for everyone who was evacuated. We have to go on with our lives. I am a month out of my house on Tuesday and I am still living out of suitcases and black bags. It isn’t very nice,” she revealed.
Mike Finn owns Finn’s Furniture on Crowe Street in Gort. In late November his business was flooded as water pooled on the street outside the premises and water levels in the river at the rear of the building rose and entered the furniture shop.
“People responded very well and some people gave me full price for furniture, even though I had discounted it,” Mike recalled.
“It wasn’t very busy over the past month but that is probably partly because of the recession. I was closed for a good while and that was in late November, early December, the busiest period for furniture. No more than with anything else, life goes on. I don’t see any help coming from Europe for us. We are always the first to give to other countries but I have heard of no country ringing Ireland asking could they help the flood victims,” he claimed.
“You can be as angry as you want but everyone knows what needs to be done. The water needs to be taken from Gort to the sea at Kinvara and whether that means new drains or pipes or whatever, it needs to be done. There was a report put together in 1995 and it was just shelved. With what happened in the last 20 years, the Government would want to take a long, hard look at themselves,” Mike stated.
According to Mike, one of the most striking things since the floods has been the depth of community spirit.
“What I learned in the last few weeks is that when the local community gets together they are strong. I was helped by a lot of people locally, like the GAA for example,” he stated.
The worst affected part of the furniture shop remains closed but for the rest, it is business as usual.
“I am trying to trade my way out of this. I hope that I can and I hope things will be ok in July and August. I am taking this month by month at the moment,” Mike concluded.
Local Fianna Fáil councillor Gerry Finnerty pointed out that a number of local residents and farmers are still suffering because of the damage caused by the floods.
“In some areas you still have flash flooding and they recover quite quickly. In Grannagh, Skenanagh, Loughinwada, Blackrock, Ballylee, Raheen, Cahermore, Caherglissane and Tarmon, there are still significant levels of water.
“All those areas could be declared a disaster zone. You are looking at water lying on those areas until next June. The water isn’t draining to the sea so it is locked inside them. Those are all farming areas and it would have been those areas that people were evacuated from their homes and remain evacuated,” he told The Clare Champion.
Gerry is not optimistic about the future.
“The spring floods haven’t come yet with the traditional heavy rain of January and February. People can’t really return to their homes, claim on the insurance, get everything fixed only to be flooded again in the New Year when they will have no insurance,” he highlighted.
“People are very resilient. The businesses are trading and farmers are out farming again and trying to get cattle back into sheds and get on with it where possible,” the councillor and local mart manager stated.
President Mary McAleese visited Gort on Tuesday to meet with people whose homes and businesses were damaged and destroyed and those involved in the flood relief efforts in the area.


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