BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATERS Cllr Brendan Mulroy pictured with residents from the Ballinrobe Road/Tonranny area, from left: Des Quinn, Martin Berry and John Moran. Pic: Conor McKeown
The sun shone down on Mayo on Thursday afternoon as the Carrowbeg River meandered through the countryside towards the town of Westport. In the village of Knockfelim two miles outside the town, a group of men had gathered to vent their frustration at the aforementioned river.
Well, not particularly at the river itself, but the flooding it causes and the attendant inherent dangers.
“Twice or three times in very recent years the river has backed up and overflowed here,” John Moran explained as he pointed at the area of land and roadway around the bridge beside his well-known garage business.
“The water backs up so much that the eye of the bridge can’t take the volume and it spreads out towards nearby houses and down under the nearby railway bridge.
“That flooding under the railway bridge blocks the road and completely cuts off access to the village of Tonranny, where there are five houses. Nobody can get in or out. If there was an emergency there would be absolutely no way for a fire brigade or ambulance to get through,” local resident Martin Berry continued.
Another local, Des Quinn soon showed us his home, in which he can no longer live. “It was built about 50 years ago, and there never was a bother until a few years ago. Since then it has been a disaster.
“The water backed up and there was a foot of water in every room. [The house] was ruined and now I can’t live in it, sell it or rent it, so what do I do?”
That sense of frustration was conveyed to Westport-based county councillor, Brendan Mulroy, and he was on the scene last Thursday to meet the locals.
“It’s so obvious. The river needs to be cleaned from the bottom up because any blockages downstream are backing up the water and subsequently flooding these areas around here,” Mulroy explained, pointing at the nearby land and houses.
“In my view, it’s a very simple solution – clean the river of blockages, let the water flow naturally and there will be no big build-up, even when it rains heavily. We need to get to work on this immediately, and I will be bringing it up at the next council meeting because we need to get everyone involved in this and not be passing the buck from one group to the next.”
John Moran was delighted to hear this response from the councillor. “It should be a whole-river thing, not just here. We don’t want the town flooded or the Mall overflowing, we just want it to flow properly. The land at my house gets so bad that my nephew came out one night after football training and swam in the field.
“There’s no point putting in flood defences downstream and backing up the water here. It’s not the biggest river in the world, it’s not the Amazon. We should be able to sort it if everyone works together.”