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Waterways Ireland Urged to Remember Farmers & Floods as it Prepares Tourism Masterplan for Shannon

5th March 2020
Portumna Harbour in County Galway on the Shannon Navigation Portumna Harbour in County Galway on the Shannon Navigation

Waterways Ireland has been urged to work with farmers who are facing serious flooding on the Shannon, as the agency initiates a new tourism masterplan for the river.

IFA Connacht chair Pat Murphy said that it would be a “win, win” for everyone if the State agency recognised that management of the river extended beyond the tourist market.

He was responding to yesterday’s opening of public consultation by Waterways Ireland on a new Shannon draft tourism masterplan and associated environmental report.

Waterways Ireland, Fáilte Ireland and ten local authorities are involved in the plan, stating it aims to “ reposition the combined Shannon Navigation and Shannon-Erne waterway as a key tourism destination within Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands, identifying world-class visitor experiences based on the region’s natural and cultural assets”.

The Shannon Tourism Masterplan sets out a bold and integrated framework for sustainable tourism development along the Shannon and Shannon Erne,”it says, and the public consultation is one stage in an 18-month procedure.

The draft was commissioned from SLR Consulting and partners, and consultation will be held in Northern Ireland also, with a closing date of April 22nd.

“Once the public consultation is complete, submissions will be reviewed and a final draft of the document issued,” Waterways Ireland said.

Mr Murphy said that the IFA respected Waterways Ireland’s role in tourism, and has no issue with it, but emphasised that repeated flooding of the river is a serious issue for farmers and residents along its banks.

“We call for one single authority to be responsible for Shannon management - and to be held responsible,” Mr Murphy said.

“We are not being listened to by State authorities, yet we have been calling for this for several decades,” Mr Murphy.

The IFA Connacht chair and Ardrahan farmer said he concurred with Mid-Shannon flood relief group chairman Michael Silke.

Mr Silke, whose own beef and sheep farm near Banagher on the Galway-Offaly border has been seriously flooded, said Waterways Ireland, the ESB and the Office of Public Works need to accept the reality of a “crisis”.

He said the agencies have to work together and said this has to be an absolute priority for a new government.

“Outgoing Minister of State for the OPW Kevin “Boxer” Moran did his best, but this has to come from the top,” Mr Silke said.

Mr Silke has proposed that the river could be naturally diverted onto bogland which could provide a natural sponge, while several pinch points between Athlone and Meelick could alleviate flooding.

Mr Murphy said the IFA would not like to see farmland flooded “ “but if bogs can be flooded, that could be an answer”, he said.

“Individual farmers are really suffering, and Athlone and Carrick on Shannon are at risk far more regularly, as it the environment, birds and wildlife,” Mr Murphy said.

Mr Murphy has already expressed serious concern about the mental health of some affected farmers. Some landowners have experienced flooding up to six times in the last 25 years, having been told back in the floods of 2009 that it was a “one in a hundred-year event”.

“All they really want is a small little bit of hope,” he said.

The Waterways Ireland masterplan can be viewed here

Lorna Siggins

About The Author

Lorna Siggins

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Lorna Siggins is a print and radio reporter, and a former Irish Times western correspondent. She is the author of Everest Callling (1994) on the first Irish Everest expedition; Mayday! Mayday! (2004) on Irish helicopter search and rescue; and Once Upon a Time in the West: the Corrib gas controversy (2010).

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