Local knowledge and official planning department wisdom are rarely played off the same sheet. The gulf in difference shows itself in several ways.
Glaringly so in times of adverse weather conditions. Flooding is well adept at finding and exploiting the differences between time tested lore and official logic.
At the planning stages of a house which was built, less than a decade ago, in a dip in the road beside the ancient Ballinahalla Bridge, the owners of the site and now occupants of the house were advised locally to ‘go an extra block’ to floor level. Their proposals were turned down by the planners.
Floods Within a Whisker
All was well until the testing times of several recent floods came to within a whisker of going in the front door of the dwelling house.
Seán Walsh, whose daughter, Katie and her husband Tim live in the house, explained the closeness of the averted upheaval with a thumb and index finger and no more than the thickness of a biro between them.
“We were watching the flood rising and thinking that it can’t get any higher than it was. It had the field there flooded already. You could put a boat in there and go right up and around the fields as far as you can see,” said Mr. Walsh.
Eye Completely Blocked
“The main eye of the bridge here was completely blocked and the road became submerged. We had to act and act fast to stop the water from coming into the house. There was a dyke and the other side of the ditch there at the back of the house and it was going down to the river at the other side of the bridge.
“We knocked a gap in the ditch and it saved the day. Only that we’re related to the landowners at the other side of the ditch we wouldn’t be able to do that either and we’d have suffered the consequences,” he said.
The parapets of the greatly humped, Ballinahalla Bridge are of mass concrete and stone-to-the-board in places.
They belie and do no justice to the superb tradesmanship of the arches and the underside itself.
Rises in Water Levels
But the whole structure was nearly undermined by the major floods of recent years and whatever support was left was also in danger from even moderate rises in water levels there.
Local knowledge dictated that help was needed if the boat in the field images were not to be realised.
Kerry County Council was contacted and contacted and……….
Enter Danny Healy Rae, TD.
“Only for this man here,” said Seán Walsh as he clapped a big, open hand on the broad shoulders of Danny Healy Rae, TD, “we’d be still in dread of facing into another winter or watching the forecast for the next heavy rain.”
“Danny was on the ball. You can see there for yourself the job they did on securing the foundations under the columns of the bridge and the eye is completely cleared and well able to cope with any flood that comes its way,” said Seán.
Flooding Becoming a Bigger Issue – Danny Healy Rae, TD
“I knew myself that flooding was becoming a bigger issue in Castleisland in recent years and you needn’t be waiting for winter at all. The flood that done all the damage here came in the month of September and it went damn near flooding Castleisland that time too,” said Deputy Healy Rae.
“There was a big tree growing out of the bank of the river there right beside and across the eye of the bridge and that accounted for a good half of the capacity for taking floodwater.
Living in Fear
“I suppose I made anything up to 50 or 60 calls to the council office over this one bridge to get it done for these people over here. I’m delighted ’tis done because it wasn’t fair to expect people to be living in fear of the next flood – especially when the council wouldn’t leave them rise the house by the one block when they were at it,” said Deputy Danny.
Asked if the excavator on the site of the bridge repairs was one of his, he vehemently if smilingly replied: “It is not ! – will you go away – isn’t there enough of ye after us.”
Job done, constituents happy. Phone calls taken. The shoes that sink in Dáil Éireann carpeting were cleaned of construction site mud in the long grass on the side of the road in Ballinahalla. Into the Merc. A hoot and a wave. Off he went to the funeral of a lost constituent.
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