Farm Ireland

Wednesday 22 November 2017

Living in fear of the next deluge

Cllr John Dolan (left) pictured with farmer Michael Macken. Photo:Frank Mc Grath
Cllr John Dolan (left) pictured with farmer Michael Macken. Photo:Frank Mc Grath

Ken Whelan

Farmers feeling the financial impact of severe flooding are demanding an urgent "clean up" of the Shannon river basin as they live in "fear" they'll be once again swamped by water.

The farmers in the Ballinahown area, around 8km on the Westmeath side of Athlone, felt under siege as their sheds filled up with floodwaters for weeks, dairy farmer John Dolan explains.

"We are used to flooding in Ballinahown but we are not used to the new flooding we experienced over the past few weeks.

The local farmers are living on their nerves," he says, highlighting the levels of silt and debris that have built up in the Shannon that has not been "maintained for decades".

"They know about climate change and they know about the state of the Shannon but they are feeling fear that this type of flooding will just become a way of life.

"If the Shannon was cleaned up it would put an end to this new flooding that we are experiencing and it put much less pressure on the flood defenses around the towns."

All of the 30 or so farmers have been inspected and passed for the fodder aid scheme introduced by the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney but John says this is only a first measure and the doors of Department of Agriculture and other Government departments will be well knocked upon over the coming months.

"It won't stop with the fodder scheme," says John who is also known to many from his work as a FG councillor.

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"There are numerous problems to be faced immediately. The real feed loss is not being felt at the moment but there will be a need for more in the next few months because of the flooding, saturated grass and delayed grass growth.

"Farm machinery has been affected by travelling over flooded land and roads and will have to be repaired. Then, of course, the cost of road repairs for the local authorities is going to be high.

'It's going to take a long time to get back to normal," John believes.


One of John's neighbours spoke of his depression about the situation when looking at the debris which was left behind on his farm yard when the waters receded over the past week.

"There was all sorts of filth and debris in his yard.

All sorts flowed out of the Athlone sewage system. He even found three hypodermic syringes at his door step," says John. John said that when the floods hit the area an army of volunteers immediately waded into help their distressed farming neighbours.

"They gave their all even in dangerous situations'.

He spoke of Athlone farmers having to dry off their cows because the milk lorries could not use the farm roads, of dairy calves having to be housed on neighbouring farms and of sucklers having to herded onto higher lands by obliging farming farmers for the duration of the flooding.

"The farmers least affected helped their neighbours bring their livestock to safer ground in tractors and trailers across roads which were so flooded that they couldn't even see the roads," said John.

He added that he was lucky himself as he escaped the weather nightmare relatively unscathed compared to his neighbours.

Indo Farming