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Connacht Tribune

West coast faces floodwater crisis by end of the century



Sea levels along the west coast of Ireland are on course to rise by as much as one metre within the next century, according to doomsday scenario outlined in new scientific research.

It means that ‘exceptional’ flood events that now occur once every 100 years, could happen every year in coastal areas of Northern Europe, such as Galway, if greenhouse gas emissions keep rising.

The frightening projections by scientists take into account global warming and changes in mean sea levels, waves, tides and storm surges up to the year 2100.

The study, ‘Extreme sea levels on the rise along Europe’s coasts’ was published in Earth’s Future, an academic journal.

It contains worrying projections for areas of County Galway, such as Connemara, Ballinasloe, and Gort, as well as the city, which have all been submerged in floodwaters and battered by winter storms in recent years.

It warned that, “the North Sea region is projected to face the highest increase” in extreme sea levels with “similar” increases expected along the Atlantic coasts of Ireland and United Kingdom.

It said “considerable increases” are projected for the Norwegian, the Baltic, and the Mediterranean Sea.

“Future extreme sea levels and flood risk along European coasts will be strongly impacted by global warming. Here, we show changes in all acting components, including sea level rise, tides, waves, and storm surges, until 2100 in view of climate change.

“We find that by the end of this century the 100-year event along Europe will on average increase between 57 and 81 centimetres. The North Sea region is projected to face the highest increase, amounting to nearly one metre under a high emission scenario by 2100, followed by the Baltic Sea and Atlantic coasts of the UK and Ireland.

“Sea level rise is the main driver of the changes, but intensified climate extremes along most of northern Europe can have significant local effects. By the end of this century, five million Europeans currently under threat of a 100-year coastal flood event could be annually at risk from coastal flooding under high-end warming,” the reports’ authors said.

The study found that exceptional flooding events that used to happen on average once every century, will now happen far more frequently.

The report warned that the projected rise in extreme sea levels “constitutes a serious threat to European coastal societies.”

“Their safety and resilience depends on the effectiveness of natural and man-made coastal flood protection (including) the capacity of the coastal zone to act as a buffer and absorb ocean energy through complex wave shoaling and breaking processes.

“Taking into account flood protection standards in place and uncertainty in their probability of failure, around five million people could potentially be affected,” it said.

The present findings imply that exceptional flood events will occur “approximately every eleven years by 2050, and every three and one years by 2100,” under the worst-case scenarios.

“Hence, the five million Europeans currently at risk to be flooded by sea water once every 100 years, may be flooded on an almost annual basis by the end of this century. Some regions are projected to experience an even higher increase in the frequency of occurrence of extreme events, most notably along the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, where the present day 100-year extreme sea level is projected to occur several times a year.

“Such increase in frequency of events that today are considered as exceptional will likely push existing coastal protection structures beyond their design limits, rendering a large part of Europe’s coastal zones exposed to intermittent flood hazard. These findings stress the need to timely develop and implement appropriate adaptation measures,” the report added.

In 2013, new flooding risk guidelines recommended that planners allow an extra half a metre in height on sites in coastal areas to protect against the effects of climate change.  Galway County Council was told at the time that the new guidelines are based on a ‘precautionary principle’ that a major once in a lifetime, or “one in one hundred years” flooding event will occur.

Gort and South Galway was badly hit by flooding in January 2016, as well as in 2009, when Ballinasloe was also submerged in water, causing millions of Euros worth of damage.

The city and Connemara has also endured several flooding events in the past decade.

Connacht Tribune

Community fights back on hospital ‘downgrade by stealth’



Raw emotion, sadness and some anger filled the air at Clifden Town Hall on Sky Road last Sunday afternoon as a shaken community gave honest, personal accounts of the impact the closure by stealth of Clifden District Hospital would have on the people of North Connemara.

The public meeting was hastily organised after fears emerged on Friday that the HSE may transfer respite services from Clifden to Merlin Park Hospital, 50-plus miles away in Galway City.

Families were told their loved ones in Clifden Hospital may have to move home, or go to Merlin Park the following Monday, due to ‘issues with staffing’.

An axe has hung over Clifden Hospital for some years, but this latest move stirred the community to fight back to retain services locally.

Galway County Councillor Eileen Mannion (FG), who organised the public meeting with Senator Sean Kyne, said 625 people signed the attendance sheets and an estimated 650 people attended.

“The community effort spreading the word was unbelievable; the turnout was unbelievable,” she said.

“It wasn’t just anger; it was raw emotion in the room. Sadness. Family members spoke about the calls they got on Friday. The feeling that their elderly person was being rejected; that they weren’t being respected.

“One man stood up, three years waiting for respite care for a family member, and then to be told after a few days in there that she’d have to be taken home or to Merlin Park.

“We’re 50 miles from Galway. If there’s no traffic you might get to the outskirts in an hour but with the traffic in Galway, you could be another hour to get to Merlin Park. Not everyone has transport either and they’ve to rely on buses.

“A young woman stood up at the meeting and said her dad was dying in Galway. And she had to go to Saint Vincent de Paul to get money to pay for a B&B so that the family would be close to him when the end came. People gave their personal stories, and it was just heart-breaking.”

(Photo by Carmel Lyden: Teresa Conneely from Roundstone addresses people at the public meeting in Clifden Town Hall).

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read extensive coverage of the Clifden Hospital story, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Connacht Tribune

Pilgrim took to his feet to realise dream!



Clifden man Breandan O Scanaill, who is on a pilgrimage from his home town of Clifden to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, received a Mayoral welcome and a memorial crest when he arrived at the Asturian town of Navia last week.

Breandan, whose walk from his home outside Clifden to the reputed burial place of St James in Santiago, began in April, was walking through Navia in Spain when a local man came over to chat to him.

“He asked me about my journey and was interested in the fact that an Irish man had turned up in the town,” says Breandan, who had been admiring the Chapel of San Roque at the time.

The local man outlined the history of the building and the town to Breandan and they began chatting more generally about history and architecture – topics dear to the pilgrim’s heart.

Breandán’s new friend introduced himself as the Mayor of Navia, lgnacio Garcia Palacios, who invited the visitor from Clifden to visit the Town Hall.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of this story, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Connacht Tribune

Local Property Tax rate to stay unchanged despite Council chief’s plea



Councillors have agreed to keep the Local Property Tax (LPT) rate unchanged – despite pleas from management that Galway County Council is predicted to spend at least €22 million more than it brings in for the next two years.

County Chief Executive Jim Cullen had recommended an increase of 15% on the LPT rate for 2023 and 2024 – amounting to €2.1m extra in the coffers annually – which would bolster its case when it came to pleading for a greater share of funding from central government.

In an estimation of income and expenditure for the Council, taking into account “unavoidable” expenditure and income changes set to hit, the Council would run a deficit of €9.04m in 2023 and 13.2m in 2024 – well over €22m unless there was a change in finances.

“I am hopeful of an uplift in baseline [funding] levels . . . we cannot continue to ignore the fact that other councils have raised LPT and their citizens enjoy a better standard of services that in Galway,” he stressed.

He told a meeting this week that €9m would be needed to maintain services next year at the same level as 2022. This was due to significant cost increases given that inflation is reaching 9.6% currently. Pensions, gratuities and payroll increases from the national pay agreement, increments and additional staff were all adding to bigger outgoings.

Without that extra funding, it will be necessary to reduce spending by that amount with a negative impact on service and staffing levels, he said.

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the story, including the councillors’ discussions, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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