BY JACKIE KEOGH and KIERAN O’MAHONY
AFTER 116 years in business in Skibbereen, the O’Donovan family have lost count of the number of times their Main Street property has been flooded.
There is, however, one date that stands out in the mind of bookshop owner, Cathal O’Donovan, and that’s 1986 – the year flood cover was excluded from his insurance policy.
Cathal said he vividly remembers, as a boy of eight, being lifted over the flood waters to be taken to school, but, as an adult, one flood event blurs into the other.
What is different about the events this week, according to the local floods committee secretary, is that if flood walls – which were constructed to hold back the overflow from the River Ilen and its tributaries – were not there, his bookshop would have been flooded last Tuesday morning.
‘I would have been flooded, Townshend Street would have been flooded, and Mill Road would have been flooded,’ Cathal said. with absolute certainty.
The flood committee secretary explained that the volume of rainfall on Monday night was 42mm over a two-hour period. The figure is significant because at high tide at 11am the following morning, the water level in the River Ilen was 3ft above the surface of the road, and 2ft below the top of the flood defence walls at Mill Road. ‘All that was holding it back was the flood defence wall,’ he said.
Although that is a hugely positive development, Cathal warned that until the town’s flood relief scheme has been finished – in its entirety – he and others will not be able to secure insurance cover.
‘Even then,’ he warned, ‘there is every indication that insurance companies will still try and refuse to provide home and businesses with cover. It’s a battle,’ he added, ‘one that we here in Skibbereen have been fighting for the last five or six years.’
The flood secretary said: ‘It’s the scope of the problem that makes it costly. It’s not just one business that suffers, countless businesses suffer, all at the same time.’
That certainly was the case with Bantry on Monday night, when 50 homes and businesses were damaged in one fell swoop. Bantry Business Association chairman Diarmaid Murphy said the 50 businesses that had their properties damaged all have their own insurance policies, but they might not include cover for flood damage. However, he said: ‘They may have an option to claim for storm damage on this occasion.’
Meanwhile, Minister of State with responsibility for the OPW, Patrick O’Donovan paid his third visit in two weeks to West Cork on Wednesday.
Minister O’Donovan was in Bandon and Bantry on Wednesday (26th) and had only visited Skibbereen last Friday (21st), and before that he was in Rosscarbery and Dunmanway on Tuesday August 18th.
He said that ‘unprecedented rainfall’ had contributed to the flooding.
‘I have spoken to the Tánaiste who has put in train a scheme for businesses in West Cork, similar to one in Kenmare for properties damaged by flooding,’ said Mr O’Donovan.
‘There are also schemes available through the Dept of Social Protection, accessed through the community welfare office, for those in private residences who don’t have access to insurance,’ he added.