A “high level” management meeting took place recently between officials of Clare County Council and Shannon Group PLC. Among the topics discussed was the need to address the integrity of the flood protection embankments surrounding Shannon Town and airport.

Raising the issue at the recent Shannon Municipal District meeting, Cllr Gerry Flynn sought an update from Liam Conneally, director of service with the local authority and meetings administrator for the Shannon MD. Cllr Flynn insisted that the embankments issue is not something that can be ignored as it has implications for local residents in obtaining house insurance as well as for the airport.

In response, Mr Conneally confirmed that a meeting did take place that was chaired by the CEO of Clare County Council, Pat Dowling, and attended by representatives of the Office of Public Works (OPW), Shannon Group and the Department of Transport. Among the key issues raised, he said, was the integrity of the embankments. Mr Conneally acknowledged that this matter has taken on greater importance recently in the waje of a CFRAMs study of flood risk assessment published by the OPW.

Mr Conneally said the report identified the need for work to be carried out to investigate the integrity of the embankments to protect the town and the airport and the potential works that will need to be done to ensure the security of the embankments. At the meeting concerns expressed by councillors were outlined in relation to having these works expedited. Mr Conneally stated that the potential risks to the town and the airport need to be weighed in the context of any new development applications for the town of Shannon. “We want it sorted as quickly as possible,” he said.

The meeting sought to identify where responsibility lies both for the initial investigation and thereafter to establish the costs necessary to stabilise the embankments. He said the process is at an early stage but the impact on Shannon Town in the interim remains an issue for the council.

Commenting on the update, Cllr Flynn recalled a detailed report from senior county engineer Tom Tiernan which confirmed for councillors a problem that the public has been aware of for some time now. Cllr Flynn reminded officials that he had called for the “high level” meeting to include public representatives. He insisted that the chairman of Shannon MD should at least have been present at this meeting to reflect the views of elected members following the Shannon Group’s failure to send a representative to an earlier meeting.

Fianna Fáil councillor Pat McMahon suggested that an expert from Holland should be called in to assist with this as they have great experience in dealing with flood prevention in low-lying lands. “I don’t know what chance we have getting someone from Holland, when we can’t get the OPW or Irish Water to meet with us,” quipped Cllr Flynn.

Tom Tiernan said it had been imperative to get all relevant parties around the table to discuss this issue. Describing the meeting as “constructive”, he said all those present were very willing participants. A priority objective was to have the embankments issue recognised as a single consolidated defence for all of Shannon, including the airport, rather than separating ownerships and responsibilities.

Mr Tiernan said that objective has been achieved, the next stage is to ascertain detailed information regarding the integrity of the embankments and to carry out the necessary checks which will determine whether the structures need attention. “We just don’t know enough about the embankments,” Mr Tiernan admitted. He said the important thing is that all parties are on a definite path to finding this out as a result of this meeting.

“Everyone is now in agreement to treat these embankments as a single entity.” In conclusion, Cllr Flynn reminded the officials of correspondence received from the OPW that all prioritisation of any works necessary at the embankments is a matter for Clare County Council first and foremost.