Roscommon County Council has confirmed that it has been forced to pause flood relief works on Lough Funshinagh in light of a High Court injunction taken by a Dublin legal firm on behalf of Cork-based group Friends of the Irish Environment CLG last week.
A statement from the council read: “Roscommon County Council confirms, with huge regret, that it has been forced to pause urgent flood relief works to protect local people, their homes and their livelihoods at Lough Funshinagh.
“Despite its best efforts, the Council was forced to suspend these urgent flood relief works due to a High Court injunction taken by a Dublin legal firm instructed by the Friends of the Irish Environment CLG of Kilcatherine, Eyeries, Beara Co. Cork.
“Subject to ensuring completion of the necessary site safety and security works at the location all works will cease immediately”.
“From January to April 2021, devastating flooding impacted the environment and the local community, including many elderly people. Families had to leave their homes; farm animals were endangered; several public roads were severely impacted or closed; and flora and fauna around the lake and in the Special Area of Conservation (SAC) was damaged and completely destroyed.
“Moreover, since 2016, life-threatening and escalating flooding at Lough Funshinagh has been damaging properties, causing distress and fear amongst local people, and destroying the environment.
“Council therefore exercised its powers to commence the urgent flood relief works under the Local Government (Works) Act 1949.
“Up to recently, unusually high levels of water in Lough Funshinagh were rare. However, for four of the past six years, exceptionally high levels of water were recorded and resulted in flooding, as follows: 68.25m in March 2016; 67.49m in April 2018; 68.25m in March 2020; 69.03m in April 2021”.
The flood relief works, which were launched by Minister of State for the Office of Public Works Patrick O’Donovan in June, involve the laying of an overflow pipe between Lough Funshinagh and a local stream which leads to the River Shannon. This project was expected to be completed by October 2021.
Roscommon County Council said it “has always strived to nurture and protect Lough Funshinagh and the SAC and it has ensured that Environmental Monitoring is a key element of the project. The majority of the work is outside of the SAC; and no work was done in the SAC so far”.
The local authority said it would not be making any further comment on the matter.
Injunction could cause ‘devastating delays’
Fine Gael Senator Aisling Dolan has said the recent High Court injunction taken by Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) on works at Lough Funshinagh could cause “devastating delays” for the local community.
Senator Dolan said the current situation is a “real heartache” for families in the Rahara, Ballagh, Ardmullen and Lisphelim areas of County Roscommon.
“This is a humanitarian project to protect lives and livelihoods due to the rising waters in the turlough. Currently Lough Funshinagh is 2.5 metres above normal levels and this is a cause of real anxiety for families in the area,” she said.
“Minister Patrick O’Donovan and the Office of Public Works (OPW) worked with Roscommon County Council to achieve a solution to allow communities to survive along the lough. This is a beautiful landscape with a rich environmental heritage and farmers in the area have been guardians of these lands, however now it is a question of survival.
“The Lough Funshinagh Flood Crisis Committee has advocated so strongly for their community and to protect the people, the area, the wildlife all which are affected by rising water levels,” she said.
Senator Dolan called on all parties to work together to achieve a solution as soon as possible.
Geraldine Murray, Secretary of the Lough Funshinagh Flood Crisis Committee, said the works do not involve draining the turlough.
“The pipe currently under construction aims to remove only the excess water thereby restoring the water to its natural levels. This process also aims to protect the habitats and flora which are currently being compromised,” she said.