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‘Lifeline’ of Clare Island community under threat


PROBLEM AREA Eddie O’Malley, Chairman of Clare Island GAA Club (second from left) explained to members of Mayo County Council how the culvert draining water to the sea has become a problem for the island’s GAA pitch. He is pictured with councillors Christy Hyland, Gerry Coyle, Michael Holmes, Paul McNamara and Brendan Mulroy. Pic: Neill O’Neill

Neill O'Neill

THE people of Clare Island have made an impassioned plea for help from Mayo County Council, saying that they stand to lose one of their main community assets and focal points, as ongoing flooding continues to damage their GAA pitch.
Despite the recent good weather the pitch remains liable to tidal flooding, and a culvert that drains to the sea gets blocked up with sand, silt and seaweed, and cannot safely be cleaned owing to a heavy concrete lid that was placed on it as a safety measure some years ago.
Addressing a meeting of the West Mayo Municipal District held on Clare Island yesterday (Monday), Chairman of the island’s GAA Club, Eddie O’Malley, said that the pitch is a ‘lifeline for the community’. Last weekend the Mayo Ladies Senior Football Team used the pitch for a training camp and it has hosted several big events over the years. Locally, the pitch is used for a whole range of events on Clare Island, not just for football.
“We got lottery funding for the pitch many years ago and matched it penny for penny on the island. We went to 25 doors and got €1,000 from each of those households, and it is very disheartening now to see the community’s work being washed away,” said Mr O’Malley.
The cascade of water that comes down the pipe to the sea is dangerous at times he explained, and the heavy concrete lid on the culvert means it is very difficult to clean out and this cannot be done safely at present.

Another concerned islander, Oliver O’Malley, also addressed the meeting, adding: “It is like the school, it is very important that we have the pitch and that the issues are sorted. We have children down there playing ball and jumping hurdles, the pitch is the life of the place.”  
Councillor Paul McNamara said that while a lack of funding was going to be cited, when the GAA pitch in a community like Clare Island is under threat, it is ‘the final straw’ for him. He said he is ‘highly involved with the GAA’, complimented the people of Clare Island on their efforts and asked straight up what it will cost to rectify the issues.
Area Manager of the West Mayo Municipal District, Padraig Walsh, said that it is not immediately clear what the best course of action should be and therefore no cost could be estimated for works. He said the council had carried out a survey of the drainage around the pitch and some of the falls go towards the pitch rather than away from it.
Eddie O’Malley added that the pitch was as liable to flooding on a beautiful summer day if there was a high tide or swell, and that it is not the case that it only happens in storms. When the culvert gets jammed with debris the water then remains on the pitch for a prolonged period of time.
Councillor Michael Holmes said that a solution had to be found, but implored all around the table to find a remedy that did not involved impacting on Special Areas of Conservation or the need for a foreshore licence or input from the National Parks and Wildlife Service, saying they would find a frog or a snail and delay or stop the works.
Padraig Walsh said that he was in agreement with finding a less complicated and long term solution and that he and senior engineer Kieran Lynn, who was also at the meeting, would give it a ‘good bit more thought’.
Island Development Coordinator, Caroline Healy, also stressed the importance of the GAA pitch and the need for this problem to be solved.
She also called on Mayo County Council to have somebody retained on the island to look after items such as clearing debris from roads, potholes, drainage, cleaning up the pier, fixing local authority accommodation and other such tasks. She said that this would provide income for a local family but also mean that necessary work on the island could be done efficiently, without having to schedule a visit from the mainland.
“This is a lived on island, and this is a call for basic services,” she said.