Deadlock as Shannon levels rise on all fronts

Farmers from across Co Longford and the entire Shannon region met with TDs and agencies involved in the rivers maintenance and supply in Athlone last week, in an effort find a resolution to the increasing problem of summer flooding.

Farmers from across Co Longford and the entire Shannon region met with TDs and agencies involved in the rivers maintenance and supply in Athlone last week, in an effort find a resolution to the increasing problem of summer flooding.

Speaking to the Leader on Monday, Chairman, Longford IFA Co Executive Andrew McHugh said that summer flooding along the Shannon was now “common” and had been so since the 1970s, when water levels along the country’s main artery were raised.

“Summer flooding has been an issue since the 1970s,” he stated, adding that “a common sense approach” was now required if the issue was to be solved once and for all.

“We met with our TDs, Waterways Ireland and the ESB last week in Athlone in an effort to highlight the severity of the problem and to highlight the negative impact that it is having on farmers across the Shannonside region. This is a long-standing problem and the main solution to all of this would be to lower water levels in Lough Ree right back to the levels of the 1970s. We are asking all our TDs in the Shannon Region to try and make that happen. Minister Brian Hayes, TD is meeting with major shareholders this week in an effort to try and solve the problem and we would ask ESB and Waterways Ireland to use a common sense approach to this issue.”

Meanwhile, outspoken Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan TD – who also attended last week’s meeting - said, “why this is happening and what the Government is not doing about it, goes back to 1979, the year when the level of the Shannon was raised by 2ft at the Athlone Wier. Since that time there have been repeated heavy winter and summer flooding of farmlands upstream form Athlone”.

He went on to say that a meeting held with Minister Hayes in relation to the matter earlier this week proved futile because the Minister “refused to engage meaningfully in discussing the core problem”.

“Instead, he, and other deputies, focused on the optics of the problem and what they must be seen to be doing,” Deputy Flanagan added.  “The only conclusion from the meeting, was that stakeholders must be brought together to discuss the problem.  Thus Waterways Ireland, ESB, OPW, farmers, Bord na Móna, Met Éireann, etc are to be brought together to discuss the problem. There is a clear conflict here.  The extra water height on the Shannon allows the ESB to produce electricity further out into dryer summers – that’s if we every get any – and it also makes life easier for Waterways Ireland, which is primarily a tourist promotion body.  Extra water depth leaves them with a far greater navigable area.  Pre 1979 there was lots of traffic on the Shannon and there is no doubt that the flooding will continue, as long as the Shannon and Lough Ree are kept at the current levels.”