Calls for single agency to take charge of waterways as west pummelled by storms
A single agency has to take charge of water levels on the Shannon, the IFA warned this week as flood waters from the river threatened more than 6,000ac of farmland.
Farmers from Leitrim to south Galway, and from Longford to Westmeath and Offaly on the eastern bank of the Shannon, were preparing to battle further flooding yesterday as the country was again pummelled by heavy rains.
Double the average amount of rain for February has already fallen across much of the country, with the west and northwest particularly hard hit.
Athenry has received 190mm of rain so far this month; its mean figure for February is 88mm.
Connacht IFA chairman Pat Murphy said farmers were facing serious difficulties as a result of the floods right across the Shannon Basin, and in other areas of the west and north-west.
Mr Murphy warned that up to 6,000ac were currently under water along the Shannon, or were in imminent danger of flooding.
The latest crisis has brought the spotlight back on the lack of progress made in protecting farmland since the last disastrous Shannon floods in 2015.
“A lot of work has gone into protecting towns along the river, and for very good reasons. But we have to help rural dwellers as well,” Mr Murphy said.
He pointed out that ESB, Waterways Ireland and Inland Fisheries Ireland had an input into water levels and maintenance on the Shannon. He said one national authority was needed for the river.
“We need one authority to set water levels on the river. Enough reports have been done. We need action on this,” Mr Murphy said.
Dairy farmer Padraig Coughlan, from Kilgarvan, Co Westmeath, has around 60ac of land flooded by the Shannon. Much of the ground under water is in the Shannon callows.
“There was 10ac of hay that I never managed to get into,” he said. “This is like a November flood, it’s the same as one big turlough.”
"It is the longest flood I've seen. It receded a bit in October, but it will be April at least before it fully recedes," said Mr Coughlan (pictured below).
The flood is lapping up against Mr Coughlan's farmyard and he is hoping that he won't have to move 1,500 square bales of hay.
He said the cost of the flood was difficult to quantify, but he predicted that more silage will have to be sourced and additional ground could have to be leased for the year ahead.
Those farming away from the river have also been struggling with the harsh conditions. PJ Finnerty from Curraghboy in south Roscommon said ground conditions for farmers with sheep out on land were atrocious.
Although his farm is 10 miles back from the river, he said all the tributaries are full and there are turloughs filling right across the area.
"Farmers really need a reprieve," Mr Finnerty said.
However, the indications from Met Éireann are that no great improvement is in sight. This week is predicted to remain very cold and unsettled.
South Galway county councillor, PJ Murphy, warned that houses, roads and land across the region will remain at risk of flooding even without further rainfall this week.
"It will be another two or three days before the rivers and turloughs stop rising from the rain that has already fallen," he said.
He said the closure of roads due to the flooding had already caused massive disruption in south and east Galway.
Meanwhile, as reported exclusively in the Farming Independent last week, the collection of fallen animals by knackeries will come to a halt tomorrow due to an ongoing dispute between the Animal Collectors' Association (ACA) and the Department of Agriculture.
The ACA claims that knackeries are currently not viable and the association is seeking a support package from the Department.
Although some progress is understood to have been made in talks between the ACA and the Department, a compromise deal had not been agreed as we went to press.