‘I have nightmares of the house flooding again’: East Cork residents call for better defences

Communities affected by last year’s flood ‘left to fend for themselves’, campaigners say outside Leinster House

East Cork native Caroline Leahy still checks the tide of the river near her house twice daily, once on the way to work in Cork City and once on the way home in the evening.

“I have nightmares of the house flooding again,” she said adding: “Every time it rains, there’s a worry, it’s a constant worry.”

The 38-year-old’s house was one of about 100 in Tír Cluain estate in Midleton to be damaged by floods during Storm Babet in October.

Ms Leahy was one of several members of the Midleton and East Cork Flood Protection Group to present a petition at Leinster House on Tuesday calling for interim flood defences.


She said communities in east Cork impacted by the floods have been left to “fend for themselves” to this day.

The petition which has almost 15,000 signatures is also calling for an early warning system as well as an overhaul of the humanitarian aid which is surrounded by “an awful lot of red tape”.

“The point of the petition is that we can’t trust them to take action to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” she said.

Ms Leahy said future floods pose a serious risk to life in east Cork adding: “We need to be given the opportunity to at least evacuate safely.”

Her home suffered about €100,000 worth of damage, €70,000 of which was structural. However she said she is one of the lucky ones as she was insured, receiving their payout at the end of last week.

Despite this, she and her partner Aidan will have to find €20,000 to fund some of the repair costs themselves as the house was underinsured.

The couple did not rectify the underestimated cost of rebuilding their home in recent years due to fears that the flood cover would be taken off the policy altogether.

“An awful lot of our neighbours couldn’t get flood cover so I didn’t want to risk losing it by messing around with the policy,” she said adding that the humanitarian aid does not cover the shortfall.

The community group is calling for an overhaul of the aid, saying the “bog-standard social welfare payment” should not be means-tested, saying there has been a “massive element of negligence”.

“They were aware that it floods there, they’ve been talking about flood defences for Midleton since 2010 and we still haven’t got them so I don’t feel that people should be out of pocket for something that’s out of their control,” she said.

“Some people still have not got the money to repair their home and it doesn’t seem to be forthcoming, they’re living in building sites with young kids,” she said adding: “It’s not an emergency fund when you get it four months later.”

She said the damage in some homes has been “really underestimated” with one community group member being offered €3,000 to replace their kitchen.

“You’d barely get your cooker or fridge for €3,000,” she said.

Calling for mental health supports, the community group also highlighted the severe impacts of stress and anxiety at Leinster House which are currently “horrendous” while children have also regressed.

Ms Leahy said those who were lucky to have insurance cover for flooding will not be able to get it again, with some neighbours already having their cover modified at renewal which she described as one of the “main gripes” of the community group’s petition.

Despite ongoing repair works, she said it is difficult to take pride and comfort in her home following the floods while living with the assumption that it will happen again.

“It is an inevitability that we will flood again,” she said.

About 15 representatives from the group travelled from East Cork to Leinster House on Tuesday morning.

Some of them are confined to the upper floors of their houses, having to avoid the ground floor due to damage caused by the floods.

Others are still living with family or friends as their homes remain “absolutely destroyed” four months on.

Among them was Kay Reeves, the owner of Cali, a boutique on Midleton’s Main Street, who said not a day goes by where she does not think of the floods.

“I’m looking at my phone constantly to see how much rain is going to fall and I’m just so nervous,” she said adding: “It just needs something to trigger it again.”

The 77-year-old was in her shop when a torrent of water poured in around her saying she was “transfixed” in the moment.

The water caused about €80,000 worth of damage to her boutique which was closed for five weeks.

“We were very fortunate that we didn’t have a loss of life. There was no warning whatsoever so we couldn’t do anything. We’re looking for a realistic alarm system to come to everybody’s telephone at the same time,” she said.

Ms Reeves recalled an older woman in a wheelchair who was stuck in her home downstairs when the floods came.

“If her son hadn’t come to rescue her to go upstairs, she would have died. The water was just piling in on top of her,” she said.

Ms Reeves said communities across East Cork are “too vulnerable” while waiting for a flood relief scheme “which will possibly be another 10 or 12 years”.

“We’re hoping something will be done in the next year or 18 months which will relieve our mental state,” she said.

“We need to be listened to,” she said.

Several Cork TDs, including Fianna Fáil’s James O’Connor and Sinn Féin’s Pat Buckley met with the group, however, they said no representative from the Office of Public Works attended.

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