Two districts prone to severe flooding in recent years were visited on Monday by Seán Canney, Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works and Flood Relief. The Minister was accompanied on his brief tour by the four Clare Dáil deputies. Prior to the visit independent TD, Dr Michael Harty, welcomed Minister Canney coming to see for himself Ballycar, Newmarket-on-Fergus, and Springfield, Clonlara, which have been severely affected by flooding in the recent past.

Minister of State Seán Canney visits Ballycar at Ballycar Newmarket-on-Fergus on February 6, 2017. Photo by Eugene McCafferty

Minister of State Seán Canney visits Ballycar at Ballycar Newmarket-on-Fergus on February 6, 2017.

Minister Canney met people from Springfield in Clonlara community hall and responded to questions put to him by a number of residents who had been severely affected by flooding in recent years. According to Dr Harty, there is considerable local dissatisfaction with the CFRAMS report on Springfield but he now understands that the OPW is treating the flooding issues there as urgent and that a solution is being worked on.

On arrival at Ballycar the Minister was greeted by a number of local farmers and residents who had been severely impacted by flooding of local lands that also closed the Ennis-Limerick railway line for months at a time. Fortunately on this occasion the line was not flooded. The Minister spoke with a number of residents including Martin Liddy and Diarmuid O’Leary who both rejected suggestions that it could cost more than €10 million to resolve the flooding problem.

The Minister asked the locals to submit any suggestions to his department for assessment. When pressed by Diarmuid O’Leary however, he refused to be drawn on a specific timeframe for action but did say that he is serious about this as he remains committed to the concept of the Western Rail Corridor.

In a statement, Dr Michael Harty said, “Clearly from the recent NTA report, Irish Rail would like to close the Ennis/Athenry section. I am also worried that if the flooding issue is not resolved, Irish Rail will become concerned about the viability of the Ennis Limerick section. It seems to me that the entire length of this vital piece of west of Ireland infrastructure is under threat if Government does not get a grip on the situation”.

The independent deputy believes the Ballycar flooding situation is compounded by disagreement involving Irish Rail, the OPW and Clare County Council, as to who should fund the necessary works to resolve the issue once and for all. He commented, “As a west of Ireland minister, deeply committed to rural affairs and to the maintenance and development of key infrastructural projects, it is my hope that Sean Canney will take the lead in resolving the impasse.”

Minister Canney recently confirmed a Flood Relief Scheme for Templemore in Tipperary, as part of the Government’s €430m capital investment plan for flood initiatives to protect localities from review and coastal flood risk.

Meanwhile it is expected that discussions will take place between Clare County Council and representatives of Shannon Group PLC in relation to the inadequate condition of flood defences that are supposed to protect the town of Shannon and Shannon Airport.