‘Worry never leaves’ elderly couple amid flooding threat

Floodwaters seeping through hundreds of sandbags are threatening to enter the home of a couple in their 80s in Co Roscommon.

Edward John and Teresa Beattie woke up to a flooded driveway a couple of days ago as flood defences at Lough Funshinagh started to give way.

“We don’t get a good night’s sleep anymore. This week the water came within inches of the house,” said 85-year-old Edward John Beattie.

“We knew in the middle of the night that something was wrong, but we went back to bed and just hoped for the best,” he added.

He said it was dark and it was only in the morning that they could see how far the water had come.

“My wife started to lift anything up that was on the floor fully expecting it to come in.

“It is a terrible situation. The worry never leaves us. We don’t know where it is going to end, the situation is way worse than it has ever been before.”

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The couple’s son, Matthew, said the situation is gone beyond a crisis now.

“People, particularly elderly people, can not live like this, they have already gone through so much,” he said.

“We need Simon Harris and the other leaders in Government to directly intervene and deliver a solution to this issue.

“Time is not on our side and the risk here is that an entire community will be wiped out in a matter of months.”

Barry Martin’s home on the other side of the lake also sees flooding
Barry Martin’s flooded farmyard beside his house

On the other side of the lake, where 91-year-old Barry Martin lives, water has flown into his farmyard and is edging towards his house.

His daughter Maria said it’s unconscionable that any human being could deem it humane that the life of her “wonderful father”, who’s recently bereaved, should be put at risk.

“I fear for his life, livelihood and the human dignity of this 91-year-old amazingly active farmer who has given a lifetime of proud dedication and commitment to his land,” she said.

She added: “The ground floor of his home is about to be engulfed in water, his livelihood of the last seven decades annihilated, and his resilient spirit challenged beyond what normal society would consider respect for our elders.”

Ms Martin is urging the Government to save the “beautiful habitat” at Lough Funshinagh and save the “people who give it heart”.

“My request is simple – the excess water that one time travelled naturally through subterranean passages must now take an alternative route designed by those with suitable engineering knowledge.”

Hundreds of sandbags on a closed road in Ballagh, on the shore of Lough Funshinagh

‘Balancing on a knife edge’

Roscommon County Councillor Laurence Fallon said the situation is now what he would call an “extreme crisis”.

“The lake should currently be about 66 meters above sea level, it is now 69.3, so it is over three metres higher than it should be in the wintertime.”

Cllr Fallon said the current level is “300ml higher” than a previous all-time high in 2021. At that time Roscommon County Council used emergency powers to put in a pipe to relieve the flooding, but works were halted due to a High Court action over environmental concerns.

Over the past three weeks the council has put in hundreds of sandbags on roads that cannot be raised any higher.

“It’s an ongoing battle and it’s balancing on a knife edge trying to keep the water back when you consider that there were 1,200 acres of water pushing in the direction of those sandbags

“As we speak, it’s being kept in reasonable safety. But we have no idea the hour, or the minute that could all change.”

Most of the outdoor council staff have been working frantically in recent weeks to try and keep the water back to protect homes as people are living in constant fear, according to Cllr Fallon.

“I can be certain, with the height of the water now and the fact that we’re going to go into the summer at a very high level, that come next October, the lake will have no possibility of having receded to a level when next winter it will be manageable at any level.

“That’s why I have written to the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and the leader of the Green Party that we need emergency action to take some water out of the lake”.

Cllr Fallon believes that after snow or gale force winds that cause huge damage the government would declare a state of emergency, and emergency action is needed at Lough Funshinagh now.

“The question is put to me regularly, who is running the country, surely the government must have emergency powers that they can use when lives are at stake. Why can’t they declare a state of emergency in this area to save lives?”

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