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Saturday 21 April 2018

ICMSA urge Govt to seek EU funds for flood repairs

CHAOS: Pat O'Donoghue, ICMSA Clare county secretary, Martin McMahon, ICMSA county chairman, local farmer Pat Blake and TJ Shannon, ICMSA chairman West Clare, inspecting damage on the coast road near Kilbaha, Co Clare. Photo: Arthur Ellis.
CHAOS: Pat O'Donoghue, ICMSA Clare county secretary, Martin McMahon, ICMSA county chairman, local farmer Pat Blake and TJ Shannon, ICMSA chairman West Clare, inspecting damage on the coast road near Kilbaha, Co Clare. Photo: Arthur Ellis.
Noel Greene, Martin McMahon, Gearoid Greene, Tomas Flanagan, John Kinnerk and TJ Shannon at the sluice near Doonbeg Co Clare. Photo: Arthur Ellis.
James Griffin, Noel Greene, Martin McMahon and TJ Shannon in James' damaged cattle shed in Doonbeg, Co Clare. The gable end of the shed was knocked by the sheer force of the sea water rushing on to the mainland. Photo: Arthur Ellis.
Flood damage in the recent storms
Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

Calls are mounting for the Government to petition the European Commission for emergency funding to repair extensive damage to farmland all along the west coast and bordering the Shannon Estuary.

Thousands of farmers in coastal areas in Clare, Mayo and Galway are counting the cost of major flooding caused by high tides and storms earlier this month.

Massive tracts of land were submerged under seawater when the ocean breached coastal defences and farmers have lost thousands of acres of grazing ground and silage fields.

Some farms are still under water two weeks after the worst of the flooding, while others are strewn with rubble, rocks and sand.

Suckler farmer James Griffin from Rhynagonaught Upper, near Doonbeg, Co Clare said the water travelled almost half a mile inland and covered 130ac in his area when the sea broke through a coastal barrier which is eight feet high and 20ft wide.

The force of the water knocked the gable end of a shed and the farmer was forced to put down a yearling heifer who was trapped inside the shed and broke her leg.

Just a few miles further up the coast, Patrick Magner will have to re-seed at least 15ac of his farm because of salt water damage.

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"We were flooded once before in 1990 and we had nothing but weeds in the field after the seawater came in," he said. "The grass will be severely stunted if it grows at all after the salt damage."

The combination of high winds and a high tide produced a massive surge of water that lifted seven stone-filled gambions weighing up to 4t each and swept them across the road they were protecting. Inside the road, Mr Magner's field is strewn with kelp, stones and sand.

Close to Kilbaha, dairy farmers Patrick Blake and Joseph Bonfil are hoping the local roads will be repaired in time for milk trucks to collect their milk in early March. However, they are pessimistic about the chances of their valuable grazing land recovering.

"I'd be lucky if I get grass growing from July/August onwards with the amount of damage done so that's at least three of four grazings lost," said Mr Bonfil. "And the road is in a terrible state. The sea literally horsed stones into fields and lifted the tar off the road completely in parts."

Along the Shannon estuary, Tom Finn was one of a number of farmers flooded when the Shannon broke its embankment in 22 places. Around 300ac in the Kildysart area were flooded, with some 80ac still under water.

"When the water came over the embankment the weight of it cut away at the ground underneath it and took the bank away. Between the cost of fixing the embankment and re-seeding the ground, it could cost me €10,000," said Mr Finn.

"The OPW maintains the bank up to three miles from us at Ballinkelly but they never came to Kildysart so we have to maintain it ourselves. But we just don't have the resources form farming to fix this much damage," he maintained.

ICMSA president John Comer called for the Government to ditch its 'cap in hand attitude' about applying for funding from the EU Solidarity Fund to repair the storm damage.

"Other member states seemed to suffer no such timidity in making applications," he claimed, citing the example of flooding in Austria.

Two provinces of Austria - Vorarlberg and Tyrol - were badly hit by floods in 2005, with damage totalling €592m. The monetary damage was less than the Solidarity Fund threshold but the Austrians applied for their claim to assessed as 'extraordinary regional disasters' and they received almost €14m for the restoration of roads, embankments and the removal of trees and rubble.

"The similarities between the cases seem extraordinary to ICMSA and we'd urge the Government to seriously consider making an application along the same lines," said Mr Comer.

Clare ICMSA chairman Martin McMahon urged all stakeholders to begin planning proper flood and high wind defences for the county's farming and food production sectors.

"These farmers have to be helped financially. It's impossible for them to deal with this kind of damage on their own. There may be insurance cover but claiming might trigger exclusion of certain types of cover in future," he warned.

Irish Independent