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Prevention measures averted even worse devastation

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Since 1998 successive consultants’ reports have documented technical solutions to the flooding across Galway but cost benefit analysis criteria as well as environment hurdles have prevented them from being implemented.

Following the chronic flood of 2009, at least €1.5m has been spent on flood relief schemes across South Galway.

This will do little to assuage the people turfed out of their flooded homes, the farmers unable to farm their swamped land or the residents forced into lengthy detours due to deluged roads.

However Liam Gavin, director of services for roads and transportation in Galway County Council, said the works that had been carried averted an even more devastating picture.

During the 2009 flood, up to 130 houses had been threatened in Ballinalsoe. Since the work on the East River Bridge on the Dublin Road, about a dozen houses had been flooded or were at risk.

The large scale flooding in Claregalway last time around had also been avoided – at least so far – following the major work on the bridge over the Clare River and a new bridge at Killeeney. The next stage of that scheme – held up due to environmental concerns – had recently been approved by An Bord Pleanála.

The long-term solution of building a channel to take all the water to the sea at Kinvara has not been approved to alleviate the major flooding in South Galway, complained Fine Gael Councillor Joe Bryne.

All efforts so far had concentrated on minor works such as maintenance of river beds and clearing of culverts.

The Dunkellin River and Aggard Stream scheme had been submitted to An Bord Pleanála for approval, with a decision now expected in January. The works are focused on three areas of the Dunkellin River at Craughwell Village, at Rinn Bridge and upstream of the N18 at Kilcolgan, with strenuous objections from oyster farmers. “The current criteria adopted by the Office of Public Works (OPW) as devised by Middlesex University are in my opinion unsuitable for areas like South Galway primarily because our population is not dense enough. The figures do not take in to any account the pain and suffering caused to people affected,” exclaimed Cllr Byrne.

South Galway is unique in that many of the areas affected are Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) and Special Protection Areas (SPA).

To  alleviate the flooding problem in South Galway, he believes the Irish Government must seek a derogation under the EU Habitats Directive to enable the minimum necessary work be carried out within designated areas.

“This would include taking measures in Turloughs to maintain minimum water levels by provided structures like weirs, which would control water levels, and being able to provide channels through designated areas,” he said.

“The primary solution to the flooding in South Galway is to get the water to the sea. We must commence all works at the sea outfalls and work upstream as outlined in the Jennings/O’Donovan report of January 2011.”

Funding of €400,000 was approved for the Kiltiernan / Ballinderreen Flood Relief Scheme, with planning permission still awaited.

The primary objective here is to provide a culvert under the N67 road at Ballinderreen with a channel to the sea at Brandy Harbour.

An overland channel from Coole to Kinvara, with a new culvert at the sea outfall in Kinvara, to be designed as part of N67 Road Tender, was stalled.

In the last month, Galway County Council had confirmed it would carry out part of that scheme, working a mile inland towards Cahermore from Kinvara, with a submission to go into the OPW shortly.

A proposal to widen the stream between Roo and the sea outfall at Currenroe, KInvara, which would need a new culvert under existing N67 Road at Currenroe, was also to go to the OPW early next year.

Calls to maintain the Termon Lough SAC at a level which would prevent flooding but enable a pumped system to be provided to get the water to the River Fergus have stalled due to environmental hurdles.

The “swallow hole” where the Cloone River goes underground at Ballylee, had also not been cleared, which may have prevented the devastating rise in levels in the Castledaly, Grannagh, Ballyaneen and Ballylee areas, Cllr Byrne said.

“In the last six months I’ve put in proposals to widen ten or twelve swallow holes to allow the water to get underground quicker. I got an answer back that the owners would have to carry out environmental assessment reports because they’re in SACs.

“We have to get serious here – are ecological issues more important than people’s lives?”

Connacht Tribune

Record crowds pack Ballinasloe to celebrate Fair’s 300th anniversary

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Crowds flock to the Fairgreen at the Ballinasloe Horse Fair.

RECORD crowds packed into Ballinasloe last weekend for the return of the famous October Fair – but it turned to be a ‘dry day’ for the punters with most of the pubs in the town taking the decision to close their doors on Sunday.

Hotels in the town also adopted either a ‘food only’ or ‘residents only’ policy through Sunday but Gardaí reported a trouble-free weekend in the town.

“There were huge crowds around and especially so on Sunday, but we had no reports of any trouble – it was practically an incident free weekend,” said a Garda spokesperson.

Many visitors to the Fair on Sunday expressed disappointment at the decision of the pubs to close  – although a few establishments did open their doors with special security arrangements in place.

The last ‘official fair’ took place in October, 2019, and while there was an unofficial event last year, it was only a small gathering due to the Covid restrictions.

An estimated 3,000 people turned out for the free open-air country music concert with Mike Denver in the Square on Sunday afternoon and Fair organisers also reported a very busy sales day with many horses changing hands.

Trustee of the Ballinasloe Showgrounds, Gerry Stronge, told the Connacht Tribune, that after a three-year break, the crowds had really thronged back into the town on Sunday.

“Most people I know that have been attending the Fair for years said that it was biggest crowd they had ever seen there on the first Sunday of the event.

“It was an incredible day – the streets were absolutely jammed with people – and it was most enjoyable with no trouble whatsoever,” he said.

Get the full story with loads of photos in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie. You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Connacht Tribune

Compo can keep sex abuse dad out of jail

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Galway Courthouse.

An estranged father who sexually assaulted his then-ten-year-old daughter seven years ago will escape a two-year jail term – if he pays her €12,000 within the next twelve months.

Counsel for the 51-year-old man, who cannot be identified in order to protect the identity of the victim, indicated at Galway Circuit Criminal Court this week that his client would avail of Judge Brian O’Callaghan’s offer and would sell off some of his assets to raise the €12,000.

Earlier in the sentence hearing, the now-17-year-old victim told the court the seven-year delay in bringing her father to justice had caused her and her mother untold grief and suffering.

“It’s been seven years, dealing with court dates and adjournments and only now, seven years later, have I got the closure I needed,” she said.

The judge apologised to her and everyone else involved for the delay in finalising the case.

“Even allowing for Covid, it is without question that the judicial, legal, criminal system has failed all parties in this case and it’s appropriate I should give that apology,” Judge O’Callaghan said.

Prosecuting state counsel, Conall MacCarthy, said the man maintained his innocence when arrested and interviewed in April 2016.

He had been due to stand trial on two occasions in the last few years but each time his trial was adjourned for various reasons, including Covid.

He then pleaded guilty, moments before his trial was eventually due to get underway last November, to a charge of sexually assaulting the girl on August 15, 2015, at the family home near a Co. Galway village.

Sentence was adjourned on four occasions since to await the results of a probation report before it was finalised this week.

Resd the full court report in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie. You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Connacht Tribune

Hero’s welcome for king of the high seas

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Atlantic rower Damian Browne holds a flare as he enters Galway Docks to a hero’s reception. Photo: Joe O’Shaughnessy.

“I just had a deep belief I was going to complete it – and nothing was going to stop me.”

Those were the words of former Connacht rugby player and now transatlantic rower Damian Browne who returned to a hero’s welcome at Galway Docks on Tuesday, just hours after his mammoth journey came to an end on the rocks at Furbo.

In the early hours of Tuesday morning, 42-year-old Browne’s vessel, the Cushlamachree, came ashore just down from Pádraicín’s – not the ending the Renmore man wanted for his epic trip from New York to Galway.

The journey was due to end at the Docks at 11am on Tuesday morning, but as it turned out, Browne had a few hours at home before being met by huge crowds who, despite the rain, came out in their hundreds to welcome the extreme adventurer back.

Children from schools across the city were among the hoards of people who lined the Harbour, including those from his alma mater, St Joseph’s (The Bish) who formed a guard of honour with oars to greet Browne.

His arrival to the Docks, escorted by Galway Harbourmaster Brian Sheridan, was met with endless cheers as drumbeat and flares signalled the end of his four months at sea.

“The winds coming from the south were blowing me up through the Aran Islands and it was great to get me through the islands, but then they kept pushing me towards the north coast of Galway and nothing I could do would stop them,” says Browne of the final hours of his journey.

“Before I knew it, I was at Pádraicín’s and heading for Barna, trying to get into Barna Pier to anchor down . . . it was very tense. I saw two rocks that I knew were there, but I thought I was further out, and then I had to whip the boat around.

“I had about two seconds to whip it around, 270 degrees, and head straight out to sea, but as I did, I got hit by a massive wave.”

The boat capsized, one of his oars broke and it was at that moment he knew it was time to get up on the rocks and call for assistance.

Get the full dramatic story – and full coverage of the welcome home – in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie. You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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