OPW’s response to Coonagh flooding was ‘unforgivable’

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Pat Cronin outside his home at Clondrinagh, Coonagh which was badly damaged by the flood. Photo: David Raleigh

THE Office of Public Works (OPW) were first alerted to the potential threat of flooding in Coonagh three months prior to the devastating floods that left homes submerged under water earlier this month.

That was the claim made by Sinn Féin councillor Sharon Benson at the Metropolitan District meeting of Limerick City and County Council last Monday.

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According to Cllr Benson the risk of a breach at the embankment in Coonagh was flagged well in advance but nothing was done until it was too late on the eve of a high tide.

“The situation is devastating. The embankment could have been protected and there wasn’t even sandbags available until the following day,” the City North representative said this week.

Fine Gael councillor Olivia O’Sullivan proposed that Limerick City and County Council provide a full update on the flooding situation at homes and land in Coonagh and in Na Piarsaigh GAA Club.

She also called for a review to be carried out on the Council’s emergency response procedures and protocol for flooding disasters.

Cllr O’Sullivan took the view that the “due respect wasn’t shown” to the people in Coonagh. She also claimed that the emergency response wasn’t taken seriously.

“We need to ask questions of our own emergency response,” she told the council executive.

Fianna Fáil councillor Kieran O’Hanlon believed the flooding could have been avoided and blamed the destruction on “incompetence”.

Fine Gael councillor Daniel Butler pointed out that families are still living in hotels after the flooding and called for a better response to such disasters in the future.

“We need to learn lessons. It could have been worse. There could have been a serious loss of life. It is only sheer luck that this didn’t happen,” Cllr Butler commented.

Cllr James Collins (FF) called for the OPW to be invited to City Hall to answer their questions.

“To happen once is forgivable. To happen twice is unforgivable,” he stated.