‘It was like a boxing match. We were losing rounds at one point'

December 14th, 2015 1:10 PM

By Southern Star Team

Frank O'Leary walks past his shop on South Main Street with flood debris piled up outside. (Photo: Denis Boyle)

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Having been hit for the second time in six years, Bandon’s retailers are angry and they’re not going to take it anymore, they tell Kieran O’Mahony

CONSIDERING what Margaret Daly went through during the floods, it’s reassuring to see she has a smile on her face. 

Margaret, who runs a barber’s shop on Oliver Plunkett St once again found herself battling to save her business and, more importantly, her home. 

‘It was a horrible feeling to see water coming out towards me when I came down on Sunday morning. I just stood there in shock at what had happened. Thankfully, Don O’Sullivan of the Munster Arms Hotel sent over two lads to help me and they took out the flooring and threw it out for me,’ said Margaret, speaking to The Southern Star this week.

Margaret started moving things on Thursday – long before the ‘red’ text alert was issued at lunchtime on Saturday.

‘My customers and friends from Bandon Athletic Club all came to help me then on Saturday, and I was able to save things like my washing machine, fridge and dishwasher. But the floors in the sitting room and dining room were destroyed, as well as my sofas. Thankfully, all my personal belongings were safe.’

While Margaret was insured during the floods of 2009, she has been unable to get flood insurance since, and, along with many local business people, is crying out for action to be taken.

‘I’ve never seen anyone in the Bridewell River. All I’m hearing is promises and promises. I won’t believe it until I see shovels in the water. Talk is cheap and that’s all we are hearing at the moment.’

However, Margaret had high praise for the members of Bandon Fire Brigade and local farmer Tony O’Mahony. 

‘Only for the efforts of the firefighters and Tony – who bought in his own slurry tank – the situation could be a lot worse. They were pumping the water from the Bridewell to prevent it bursting its banks.’

For Damien McCabe, an artist who lives in St Finbarr’s Place, his ground floor apartment took the brunt of the floods on Saturday night.

‘Once we were aware of the rising levels in the river, my sister Sineád came down with her car and we tried to get everything out as fast as we could. But we couldn’t manage to get everything. I managed to save most of my paintings, but had to leave a lot of personal things, like my huge CD collection, my laptop, external hard drive, painting equipment and personal photos,’ Damien told The Southern Star.

Despite Damien losing so many items, he still took the time to fill sandbags for the Council until 4.30am that morning, as he felt he had to help others.

‘I’m staying at my sister’s at the moment, but I’m looking for emergency accommodation. It’s pretty soul destroying filling out the forms. I cleared out the rest of my things from the apartment on Tuesday and basically threw out most of my stuff as it was all destroyed. This place has been flooded three times now, so I won’t be going back there and I need to get alternative accommodation somewhere in Bandon.’

Frank O’Leary of O’Leary Fashions on South Main St has seen it all before, having been a victim of the 2009 floods, which saw him spending over €400,000 refurbishing his shop. ‘I’m very cross with the whole situation and it’s a total mess-up with both Cork County Council and the OPW. They call them ‘reasons for the delay’ in the Bandon Flood Relief Scheme, but we call them excuses,’ an angry  Frank told The Southern Star.

‘Thankfully we were able to move the stock and furniture that evening, so there was no stock lost. But we don’t have a floor now, after over two feet of water came up through the floor and through the walls. We opened on Tuesday again and we’ve been overwhelmed by the support people have given us, not just from Bandon, but from all over West Cork.’

Frank had been insured up until two years ago, but is now unable to get cover for his premises. ‘If this happens again in Bandon, most business owners will probably walk away, as we can’t afford to keep in business. For now we’re happy to carry on, but something has to be done for Bandon.’

In nearby Kevin Bowens, the staff and their manager Bryan Powell also had a hectic time trying to save the shop from flooding.

‘We were lucky that we managed to move all our stock upstairs on Saturday night. The water then came up through the tiles, but this time it was quicker and the water cleaner to mop up, and we were able to re-open on Monday,’ said Bryan.

For Aidan Buckley, station officer with Bandon Fire Brigade and his crew, it was a battle that they, along with colleagues from both Clonakilty and Kinsale Fire Brigade, fought hard to contain.

‘It was like a boxing match. We were losing rounds at one point, but we won it in the end, and at one stage we were using 12 pumps on the streets. We must have pumped over 4 million gallons of water off the streets,’ he said.

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