It’s a ter­ri­ble thing to be home­less. If I get over this, I will build a house in the area but I could never come back here with the fright I got

Irish Independent - Weekend Review - - FRONT PAGE - LESSONS LEARNED A COM­MU­NITY EF­FORT

peo­ple are not forced out of their homes in the fu­ture. Ac­cord­ing to Bren­dan O’Don­nell, se­nior roads en­gi­neer with Done­gal County Coun­cil, lessons will be learned from the re­cent flood­ing. He ex­plains that af­ter any ma­jor weather event, coun­cil chiefs sit down for a de­brief­ing ses­sion to see what could have be done dif­fer­ently — and this oc­ca­sion will be no dif­fer­ent.

The is­sue of de­bris, trees and branches build­ing up in rivers is some­thing that will be dis­cussed but Mr O’Don­nell says this will re­quire a con­ver­sa­tion be­tween coun­cils and agen­cies na­tion­ally to work out what can be done and who is ul­ti­mately re­spon­si­ble for keep­ing rivers clear in fu­ture.

The coun­cil boss says calls are still com­ing in about dam­aged bridges and cul­verts, but the coun­cil must now draw a line un­der things and make a pro­vi­sional es­ti­mate of the to­tal cost of the dam­age and clean-up. He was re­luc­tant to put an over­all cost on it yet, but says the process is com­ing to a close.

He says a wet sum­mer where peaty and boggy ground never got a chance to dry pro­vided the worst pos­si­ble back­drop for the amount of rain that fell on high ground on the night of Au­gust 22. The ground sim­ply didn’t have the ca­pac­ity to ab­sorb the wa­ter and land was sim­ply ripped away down hills, tak­ing in­fra­struc­ture like roads and bridges with it.

“It was a unique set of cir­cum­stances that ex­ac­er­bated the sit­u­a­tion — it’s dif­fi­cult for any county to be pre­pared for that. If that kind of rain fell on flat­ter ground, you wouldn’t have seen the scale of de­struc­tion that we saw,” says Mr O’Don­nell.

In the nearby town of Carn­don­agh, where the Carn­don­agh and Glen­togher Rivers burst their banks, Pa­trick McLaugh­lin ‘Mooney’ be­lieves lessons must be learned from the dev­as­ta­tion, and he says rivers and their banks have to be cleared. A part-time farmer who works for Done­gal County Coun­cil’s roads depart­ment, Pa­trick says State agen­cies must de­cide who has man­age­ment of the coun­try’s rivers and whose re­spon­si­bil­ity it is to keep them clear of de­bris build­ing up.

Pa­trick was called up on the night of flood­ing to go out to keep the roads clear. While he worked tire­lessly, 20 of his spring lambs drowned in a low-ly­ing field at the back of his prop­erty. When he re­turned at 3am, the roar of the Glen­togher was all he could hear at the back of his house. He knew his sheep were gone, and he says he was so tired and heart­sick he couldn’t even go to bed.

“My­self and my fa­ther used to farm to­gether. You get at­tached to your stock. My­self and my son, Pádraig, are car­ry­ing that ba­ton now. Luck­ily, we found eight lambs in the gar­den next door and one ram. We gath­ered the oth­ers up, but there are some we’ll never find — they’ve been washed out into the bay,” says Pa­trick.

Walk­ing through his field, which was the scene of the de­struc­tion, Pa­trick sur­veys the dam­age. It’s full of rocks and de­bris. It will have to be fenced once again and to­tally re­seeded. In all, Pa­trick es­ti­mates €25,000 worth of dam­age has been caused. The re­place­ment of a stone em­bank­ment alone will cost €5,000, but Pa­trick says he will spend the win­ter do­ing it. How­ever, he is adamant that lessons must be learned so gen­er­a­tions to come will not have to pay the price.

Over the moun­tain road in the town of Bun­crana, where many other fam­i­lies have sim­i­lar sto­ries to tell, Su­san Far­ren is man­ning a de­pot of goods do­nated by the pub­lic to help peo­ple af­fected by the floods.

A com­mu­nity ac­tivist, Su­san was so moved by the dev­as­ta­tion in Inishowen, she set up an ap­peal to help the peo­ple in the area. A lo­cal busi­ness­man gave her his premises to store do­nated items from du­vet cov­ers to ket­tles. It quickly be­came a hub for peo­ple from all over the coun­try look­ing to do some­thing to help Inishowen and peo­ple be­gan ar­riv­ing with van loads of toi­letries and house­hold items.

Su­san says they have 50 fam­i­lies on their data­base and are do­ing what they can to help peo­ple af­fected by flood­ing. “There’s no par­tic­u­lar type of fam­ily. Ev­ery sin­gle fam­ily’s needs have been dif­fer­ent. For all of us vol­un­teers, it’s been emo­tion­ally over­whelm­ing. We’ve been work­ing all hours and it’s worth it to see the joy on peo­ple’s faces when they have a sofa to sit on. That’s not to say ev­ery­thing is fixed. It’s a step­ping stone to get­ting things sorted out,” says Su­san.

The lo­cal ef­fort to help peo­ple dis­placed or af­fected by the flood­ing is huge and on­go­ing. Last week­end, coun­try mu­sic stars Daniel O’Don­nell, Nathan Carter, Big Tom and Do­minic Kir­wan took part in the Flood Aid for Inishowen Char­ity Con­cert, rais­ing €30,000 in the process. More events are lined up from char­ity spin-a-thons in lo­cal gyms to fur­ther con­certs.

The big flood will loom large in the col­lec­tive mem­ory of Inishowen peo­ple for gen­er­a­tions to come. Where you were on that fate­ful night will be a ques­tion oft asked in years to come. But what has come af­ter will also be re­mem­bered. Neigh­bour help­ing neigh­bour putting things back to­gether again. Friends show­ing sol­i­dar­ity and sup­port. Peo­ple fundrais­ing and vol­un­teer­ing and giv­ing what they can. Peo­ple get­ting on with it in their own inim­itable way. The storm has a force to be reck­oned with in this place.

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