Topical Issues – ‘Why people who were flooded out of their homes in 2009 in County Galway have not yet received compensation’

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Householders in County Galway whose homes were devastated by flooding in November 2009 have been left in limbo for three years and as those householders face into their fourth year without a home, they need a speedy conclusion to be brought to the Flooding Relocation Scheme so that they can move on with their lives.

A total of 32 families from all across the country applied for the flood relocation programme, including a dozen from County Galway, and of those 20 applications nationwide have been successful. However, these families, whose applications were deemed successful, are now facing into their fourth year without a home.

The impact of severe flooding on these families has been huge, loss of a much-cherished home, as well as the loss of many personal belongings such as photographs and other treasured mementoes, the price of which cannot be measured, but that loss has been compounded by the failure of successive Governments to bring the matter to a conclusion.

Once the rising floodwaters receded, a number of families across south County Galway, in places such as Gort and Skehana, were left picking up the pieces, both literally and metaphorically, of their lives. I have met these families and have seen the devastating impact that this event had on them, and unfortunately continues to have on them as the lack of a resolution in terms of relocation has meant that in the intervening years they have not been able to have a place they could call home.

These people had enjoyed a secure home, where they could plan for the future, but the flooding episode of late 2009 changed all that. Many found themselves living in rented accommodation for the first time in their lives, unable to plan for the future as they awaited the outcome of the Flooding Relocation Scheme.

The application process was particularly long and tortuous, and many thought that once they were accepted on to the Scheme, that their difficulties were over, but that has since proved not to be the case, as the months drag on and rather than achieve any clarity, it appears to be more and more difficult to get answers.

I have raised this issue with the Minister for Social Protection on numerous occasions, highlighting the need for closure for these families in south Galway. Having met the families, one can see the toll that it is taking on each and every family member. This matter has now reached a critical point. They cannot continue into a fourth year in this current uncertain atmosphere. Answers are needed.

I was just elected as a councillor when this flooding episode happened. At that time I believed that it was totally unacceptable that these people should be left in a legal limbo regarding their relocation, but three years on, as they face the prospect of a fourth year without a home, the time for action is well past.

Lives have been suspended for these family members and they have been left waiting, and waiting, for the last Government and the current Government to see the issue resolved.

The compensation scheme has been announced for six months now, but since then, progress appears to have slowed even further, with no deadlines, no news for families, no information coming from the Department. This situation is completely unacceptable and must be resolved for these families.

Of course, each individual family is in a different situation and I recognise that each case has to be dealt with on its individual merits, but even dealing with the cases on a case-by-case basis, they should have been resolved long before this.

These families need a date by which this saga will be brought to an end. They need a home, a place to call their own, where they can start to plan for the future again and leave the dreadful events of November 2009 behind them.