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Photograph by John Kelly

“We’ve had no sleep in this house”

LIVING with the constant threat of her home being flooded had worn down Brigid Kinsella by Monday afternoon.

A widow, she lives with her three sons at Springfield. Hundreds of sandbags are placed all around their home and she says she would now like to move away from the area, so disillusioned is she.

On Saturday night the area around her house was underwater, with the floods coming right up to the sandbags, which were the families last hope of keeping their home dry. “For two weeks basically we’ve had no sleep in this house. I have three sons going to college, one of them in his last year. I went to bed last night (Sunday) and I said if it comes in I really don’t care, I can’t go another night without sleep. It actually had receded a lot down here this morning. It was so bad that my son sent an email to the council to know about relocation or buying us out,” she says.

The house she lives in was built in 2001 and much of the time in Springfield has been very uncomfortable, with the spectre of flooding hanging over her family each winter. “It’s endless. We have beforehand preparing for the flood, we have the flood and then we have the aftermath. The aftermath is the dirt around the place. We live in the country so its septic tanks and slurry. “I’ve a septic tank that I got emptied just before the flood and that has all backed up again. I can’t let the dogs out the back because the place is full of sewerage. You have to pay to get your gravel replaced because it’ll be gone, then you have to get the place power washed all around. My outside walls have cracked over the years with all the flooding. I just wish they would decide are they actually going to do something about the flooding or will they buy us out. We’ve had enough down here now. People that would never have thought about going before now want to go.”

She says that around four years ago her sons, just teenagers at the time, were up day and night for eight weeks, working to make sure the house didn’t flood. “It would actually take its toll on you mentally and physically. No sleeping… Whether it’s there or not, you’re waiting for it to come.”

She feels that it is past time that residents were told honestly if there will be a solution provided to the flooding or they be compensated and allowed to start again elsewhere. “I just wish they’d fix it or let us go, one or the other. I’d sooner go at this stage, you could never sell it.

“It (the house) wouldn’t even be given to homeless people, the Council wouldn’t give them something like this to live in. I think myself they’d be better off to level the houses here and let the water onto the land.”

During the first flood the family faced they were asked to evacuate. Her children did go to to stay with grandparents, but the family had a farm at the time and Brigid said she had to stay to mind the animals there.

She is full of praise for the work done by Clare County Council over the last few weeks. “Clare County Council have worked around the clock. They’ve even brought portaloos which we never had before and they brought the sandbags. The men from the County Council and the Defence Forces have been out there for two weeks pulling and dragging sandbags, the wear and tear on their bodies, I couldn’t lift one sandbag not to mention the amount they are lifting.”

However she is not happy with the ESB, who she feels don’t take responsibility for the impact of the water released. “What I can’t understand is with all this flooding, the ESB send us messages that they are releasing water from Parteen Weir. As far as I am concerned then it is the ESB flooding us, but its Clare County Council that has to deal with everything that’s going on. You never see the ESB down here, any trucks or anyone asking can we help or assist you in any way.”

She said a couple in the area had to rush back from a foreign holiday to try and deal with the flooding situation, illustrating again the stress that is being faced.

20-year-old Seamus Reddan lives at his family home in Springfield and this time they have been spared the worst effects of the floods. “It’s still hassle trying to get in and out, but we’re not as badly off as everyone else.”

He says there is strong community spirit, with people coming together to do the best they can for each other.

This time the official response has been quite good, he feels, but an opportunity was missed to protect the area. “This time the council were out earlier, everything was prepared, all the sandbags were filled, all of our needs were met before it happened. But people are upset that nothing was done when things could have been done.”

There is great stress on local families, he feels. “You could wake up in the morning and your drive could be the River Shannon.”

Liam and Trish Howard also live in the area, but their house is on slightly higher ground, sparing them the problems their neighbours are facing.

Trish said that the flood protection measures required are actually less expensive than reacting to the floods is proving to be. “They told us in 2015 or 2016 that they would put in an embankment, which you’re aware of, no doubt. It’s supposed to cost in the region of €1.2 million. The last flood cost €1 million, between the emergency services and everything else. What’s it going to cost this time? The two floods in this short space of time would have already paid for our embankment.”

Liam praised the County Council workers, who he says have done a “superb job” in doing as much as possible to help the residents.

Serial objector Peter Sweetman made a submission against a planning application for flood protection works in 2018 and Trish says the impact of it not going ahead is now being felt. “It’d be interesting if someone showed him this devastation, how does he feel about it?”

Owen Ryan

About Owen Ryan

Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.

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