Funding in place for flood relief, but no work before winter

The flooding at Kiltiernan National School in 1990

Almost a year on from the approval of funding for flood relief in the Kiltiernan area of South Galway, not a sod has been turned nor a cent spent on the project, the Connacht Tribune can confirm.

And now fears are growing that Kiltiernan National School – located between Kilcolgan and Ardrahan – could once again be facing into another winter of high flood risk.

OPW Minister, Sean Canney, told the Connacht Tribune that money allocated for the project in the second half of last year had been ‘ring-fenced’ for the completion of the flood relief measures at Kiltiernan.

“The County Council [Galway] are the contracting authority and I know that discussions have been ongoing between them and the NPWS (National Parks and Wildlife Service).

“I have had talks with the Council’s Director of Services to try and clear the way for the project to be carried out and I have offered the services and assistance of the OPW [Office of Public Works] to help resolve any issues arising,” said Minister Canney.

However long time campaigner for flood relief measures to be put in place in the area, Mattie Hallinan from Ballinderreen, warned that ‘time is passing and the winter is coming’.

“Here we are in the middle of September, 2016 – after the money being allocated to carry out the job last October – and not one blade of grass has been touched since.

“The people around here want to know what’s going on. We’ve got money to spend, the job to be done is a relatively simple one, and yet a few environmentalists in Dublin seem to be able to call a halt to this.

“It’s just good enough to tell the people of South Galway or the parents of children attending Kiltiernan National School that the Parks and Wildlife Service can hold up this project,” said Mattie Hallinan.

He said that the project to be done – involving a spend of around €400,000 – was not rocket science but simply involved the laying of a larger pipe network to take the floodwaters around Kiltiernan to the sea north of Kinvara.

Ardrahan independent councillors, Michael Fahy, told the Connacht Tribune that the local people were bewildered that almost a whole year had passed without one shovel being lifted to carry out the necessary work.

“I can tell you, that the last thing people in this area will want to see over the coming winter, is Government representatives coming up to have their pictures taken beside the floods.

“They have dilly-dallied over this since last spring and it won’t wash if they claim that the NPWS are responsible for holding up this project.

“There has been ample time for the Government to draft legislation that can ensure the NPWS cannot hold-up critical projects like this. That’s what Governments are for and they haven’t done their job,” said Cllr. Fahy.

During critical flood periods like November 2009 and December/January last winter, Kiltiernan NS has been under severe threat due to floodwaters.

Last October the OPW committed to allocating €250,000 for the project with a further €125,000 to €150,000 being provided by TII [Transport Infrastructure Ireland, formerly the NRA, National Roads Authority].

Local people are also fearful that works on the new M18 motorway project, now at an advanced stage, could worsen flooding problems in South Galway due to underground channels being blocked up.

In August 2015, the then Minister for the OPW, Simon Harris, visited the Kiltiernan area and gave the commitment to allocate money for the project, a pledge since reaffirmed by current OPW Minister Sean Canney.

According to Mattie Hallinan the flood alleviation measures to be put in place – essentially the laying of bigger capacity pipes – could be completed in a month or so.

“The problem is that the window to carry out this work is getting shorter and shorter. So far we’ve had a wet enough September – time is running out for us and the Winter’s on the way,” said Mattie Hallinan.

A wet start to September has heightened fears of an early start to the autumn/winter flood season – over the first twelve days of the month, the Athenry Met Éireann station recorded 68.5mms (2.7 inches) of rainfall.