Flooding in the vicinity of Lough Funshinagh, in South Roscommon, in previous years.

Environmental group 'rejects blame' over Lough Funshinagh flood fears

An environmental body has "rejected allegations" that its actions were the reason why flood relief works have not been undertaken in the vicinity of Lough Funshinagh in South Roscommon.

In a press statement in early January, Roscommon County Council made reference to legal action that was previously taken in the High Court by the Friends of the Irish Environment organisation.

The council went on to express concern that further flooding could occur in the vicinity of the lake after the heavy rainfall of previous weeks.

"Due to the High Court challenge taken by Friends of the Irish Environment against Roscommon County Council, flood relief works that would have protected homes, property and public infrastructure in the general vicinity of the lake cannot be completed and no new works can be undertaken," the council said.

Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) issued a response to this in its own statement on Friday last, January 12.

The group has been "monitoring with concern rising levels on the Lough Funshinagh GSI monitor over the past number of weeks", FIE director Tony Lowes said.

He said FIE "stood in solidarity with communities in areas such as Middleton and Lough Funshinagh who are impacted by climate change".

"We appreciate the anguish and anxiety that people are experiencing in the local area," he said, "but the issue is the OPW's decision not to fund the proposed scheme on cost benefit grounds and the Council's subsequent illegal actions.

"The planning application announced in March 2021 was informed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service and was to employ a special procedure under the Habitats Directive as part of a planning application to An Bord Pleanála in order to legally undertake the proposed works.

"However, at some point in early May 2021, a decision was taken by the council to abandon this legally compliant approach and to undertake unlawful works.

"The council has never explained who or what led them to abandon the planning application that it was preparing. Roscommon County Council thereafter sought to twice advance works without a lawful basis. In neither case did they offer a defence to the courts.

"However, by deciding to ignore the advice of the National Parks and Wildlife Service and pursue unlawful schemes, the Council wasted almost one year in which it could have been advancing the planning application. They also unnecessarily wasted public monies on consultancy and legal fees.

"It is quite conceivable that a proposed flood relief solution could have been approved by now had the council remained on the legally compliant pathway they had been on before May 2021."

Mr Lowes concluded the statement by saying: "It is unacceptable for a public authority to seek to blame our organisation for upholding the law of the land.

"The suggestion appears to be that the council was entitled to break the law, and the organisation which challenged it in court is somehow responsible for the predicament of the local community.

"If that is what is actually being suggested by the council, then it is an extraordinary position for a public authority to hold."