Storm Brigid destroys Carrowniskey beach
IT IS famed as one of the best beaches for surf in the country, but as you approach Carrowniskey beach south of Louisburgh, you cannot but be shocked at the damage that has been wrought there.
The famous Carrowniskey strand was simply no match for Storm Brigid, which arrived on the night of January 31 and raged into the morning of February 1.
The sandy shore is covered with rocks; the banks at the back of the shore have been wiped away; and the car-park is completely covered with boulders. The term ‘like a bomb hit it’ is apt. The place is unrecognisable.
Local farmer Padraig McNamara has seen the sea at its worst over the years, but the power of Storm Brigid shocked him.
“The sea was that angry it was like it was fighting with itself. You had a wave coming straight in and another wave hitting to one side and a third one to the next side. I never saw the likes of it, waves going in three different directions. The noise was something else,” Padraig told The Mayo News.
Padraig McNamara owns land immediately behind where the car-park at the beach was located. Farmers Des O’Malley, Paddy Joe O’Malley, Michael Joe Gibbons and Jim O’Malley are some of the tenants on adjoining commonage.
Their land has been badly breached by the storms. It is as bad as we have seen around the county. As we look southwards from the remains of the car park at Carrowniskey, floodwater covers land almost as far as the eye can sea.
Stones, rocks and sand have been washed in all along the farmland. Padraig McNamara said it was ‘the finest of grazing land’ before the storm, but it is hard to believe that now. Not a patch of green grass can be seen along the coast for acres. The farmers estimate that up to 30 acres have been covered by rock washed in, and that many more have been flooded on top of that.
“You might not get a tide like that in a lifetime, or it could happen again in a month, we just don’t know,” adds Michael Joe Gibbons, explaining the uncertainty that those living near the coast are faced with.
After Storm Christine in the first week of January, the farmers here submitted an estimate to the IFA of damages reaching €20,000. They believe the damage cost will be many multiples of that now. It is difficult to disagree.
Des and Paddy Joe O’Malley raised valid questions about the impact of the storm on farm funding. The issue which has caused concerns for a lot of farmers along the coast since the storms. What will the damage mean for Area Aid applications? If some of what was once farmland is now covered in stone, it can no longer be farmed – will their payments suffer?
“Farmers should be helped as much as possible,” Cllr Austin Francis O’Malley told The Mayo News. “When farmers apply for aid, any farmer who has land lost or covered by rocks should have a ten-year period where they can apply for their aid at the old acreage before the storm and not be punished for having parts of their farm covered in rocks through something that was no fault of theirs. This is common sense and fairness,” he says.
Like all the farmers we spoke to, these farmers at Carrowniskey do not expect instant help. Not do they expect the state to pay for all the repair work. They are, however, worried about what the future holds if the natural defences that were in place at Carrowniskey beach, protecting their land, are not restored.
“We know money is scarce, but if we got a bit of help, it would make a big difference,” said Jim O’Malley.
They simply do not know when or if their land will be grazed again. They do not know if or when they will get help. They do not know whether the years-old tradition of the Carrowniskey Races on the strand will take place this year.
Storm Bridget has left a very uncertain future at Carrowniskey.
UNRECOGNISABLE?This scene at Carrowniskey beach near Louisburgh looks more like a lunar landscape than what was previously there; a car park to the right and green fields to the left.