Thursday, 16 January 2014
Deputy Pat Breen: I welcome the opportunity to raise the concerns of the people of County Clare who have been so badly affected in the aftermath of Storm Christine. I have never witnessed the scale of the damage that has been done. As I drove across the county on Friday last to survey the damage and meet with the affected communities, some of the images I saw brought to mind Armageddon. Large sections of our coastal infrastructure have been ripped apart. Sea walls have been washed way, roads undermined, seaside promenades have disintegrated, family homes and businesses have been flooded and hundreds of acres of land have been submerged under water. The initial storm on St. Stephen’s night left four families stranded in Dooras in O’Callaghan’s Mills but the events of Friday, 3 January, and Monday, 6 January, were particularly devastating for communities in the coastal areas of west and north Clare. Last year, the area surrounding Loop Head lighthouse was voted the best place in Ireland in which to holiday by The Irish Times. However, when the storm was at its height two weeks ago, most of Loop Head Peninsula was under water. An island was created at Kilcredaun and Carrigaholt was cut off, the supporting sea wall in Kilbaha was washed away at 9 a.m. as local people looked on, the coast road to the Bridges of Ross was destroyed, roads in Doonbeg were decimated and sand disappeared from various beaches in the area.
It was heartbreaking to visit the community in Quilty on Friday morning last and listen to the stories of families which had to be evacuated from their homes by the Irish Coast Guard at 6 a.m. and who were only allowed to bring essential belongings with them. It was pitiful to hear about the plight of two children whose two pet dogs drowned in the floods. A massive four tonne boulder was tossed 30 feet by the angry sea and landed close to the pier in Doolin. The promenade in Lahinch disintegrated, in Liscannor a five meter pier wall section was washed out to sea and over 3,150 m of the acclaimed Flaggy Shore, mentioned in the works of the poets John O’Donoghue and Seamus Heaney, has been badly damaged. Substantial areas of farmland in the locality in which I live remain underwater and breaches to the Fergus Embankments at Ballynacally and Kildysart forced farmers to use boats in order to get feed to animals stranded across their properties.
In the limited time available it is difficult to highlight the impact that the storm has had on the community in Clare. Suffice to say that the damage has been extensive. We will have the opportunity to show the Minister of State with responsibility for the OPW, Deputy Brian Hayes, the situation on the ground when he visits County Clare on Friday of next week at the request of Oireachtas Members. Clare County Council estimates put the bill for repair and reconstruction at €24 billion and is currently putting together an actual assessment of the cost. I ask the Minister of State to provide 10% of the costs submitted by Clare County Council in the form of emergency funding in order to assist it in engaging in immediate reconstruction before the spring tides arrive next month. That would be a gesture of goodwill on the part of the Government. I appeal for the amount to which I refer to be given to all communities affected. Coastal defences are crucial to such communities and the people who live in affected areas deserve to have the necessary works carried out.