Communities around Lough Funshinagh in Co Roscommon say they are concerned about flooding once again following heavy rainfall in recent weeks.

The lake has flooded every year for the last five.

Remedial works undertaken by Roscommon County Council, which had intended to pipe excess water from Lough Funshinagh into the river Shannon, were halted after a successful High Court challenge by Friends of the Irish Environment.

The group argued that the council had used legislation from 1949 to bypass proper planning procedures to carry out the works at what is a special area of conservation.

Geraldine Murray from Lisphelim has been watching the rainfall in recent weeks and is dreading the winter.

It is only October and already water levels are already higher than normal.

"The way the rain has been falling for the last week or month really, I think we're in for a worse winter than 2021," she said.

Locals estimate the lake has risen 177 millimetres, almost seven inches, in the last two weeks alone.

"There's a huge amount of fear amongst the community," said Ms Murray.

"People are already beginning to wake up in the middle of the night, listening to the rain knowing that this could just be the beginning of what could be the end for many.

"There are three more houses in imminent danger. I'm not in immediate danger but in 2017 the water blocked the exit to my road, but it could come to the door this time. It's a frightening time for us all."

A flooded field by Lough Funshinagh

Roscommon County Council and the OPW say they continue to support the community in finding a viable solution.

In a statement the council said it has continued to adhere to the high court order, including the remediation of the site and is continuing to work with the Office of Public Works on possible solutions.

It added that Roscommon County Council is leading the response to the flooding risk and is being supported by relevant agencies, including the OPW.

The OPW said that Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works Partrick O'Donovan has seen at first hand the impact of the water levels at Lough Funshinagh and in April of this year he met the Chief Executive Officer and elected representatives of Roscommon County Council.

In June 2022 senior officials from the OPW again met with Chief Executive Officer and other senior management from the council, focused on identifying possible approaches to a viable solution.

A further meeting is scheduled in the next fortnight, the statement said.

The OPW said that at the meeting, and since then, the Minister has assured the Council and the local community of his and the Government's continued support.

As Lough Funshinagh is a Special Area of Conservation and subject to environmental legal protections, any proposed solutions must be assessed to determine their viability, the OPW said.

'Problem not going away'

Independent Councillor Laurence Fallon said: "We have to find a solution.

"This problem is not going to go away. The only glimmer of hope is that all political organisations and the OPW are committed to find a solution.

"The challenge we have, is the courts can stop us at any time so I would appeal to those who might be thinking of objecting on environmental grounds, a solution to this will help the environment of the lake and restore it to its natural beauty."

The O'Meara's house was first flooded in 2016 and will soon be demolished

The O'Meara's house was first flooded in 2016 and their home was the first to be permanently evacuated because of the lake's flood waters. It will soon be demolished.

"It's almost seven years since the first flood in January 2016," said Mary O'Meara.

"We battled hard at the time with the support of our neighbours and friends.

"In 2020 the water levels started to rise again, and we left our home in early 2020, about 12 days before the lockdown. At that time, the levels superceded all levels.

"Because it's a turlough the water levels just hold for months and for us probably years. If the overflow pipe isn't allowed progress, this could be a precedence to what will happen to other people's home and farms.

"It hasn't been an easy journey and I wouldn't like anyone else go through the same process."

Padraig Beattie fears his house is next in line for flooding

'Worry never goes away'

For Padraig Beattie, who lives less than 100 metres from the O'Meara's, the worry never goes away.

"Our house is next in line to be flooded, if the water rises," said Mr Beattie.

"I'm looking at O'Meara's house with the roof gone off it and the windows gone and the same could happen my house if something isn't done.

"I record the rainfall at home and some mornings when I get up and look at it, and see the rain that fell the night before, you genuinely feel like going back to bed.

"If you had a date when they're going to start at the digging again, at least there would be light at the end of the tunnel but right now the tunnel is getting longer and darker."

Further up the road, where Edward John Beattie lives, there has been flooding too.

He had to leave his home last winter, because the water was coming in.

"You're afraid all the time," he said.

"They've pumps on at our house ready for action if the water starts rising. It's worrying."

His son Anthony shares the concern.

"It's scary when you look at the lake," he said.

"We don't feel like we're being heard. The pipe should be finished at this stage but people objected and we're suffering as a result."

Constant worry

For residents like 90-year-old Barry Moran, flooding is a constant worry, and he believes, without a solution, the future for residents here is bleak.

"We just hope something is done," said Mr Moran.

"If not, there will be no one around, that's one thing for sure. There will be nothing around for them."

For now, the pumps are on standby.

Tom Carney, who's family have been living in this area since the 1700s, said: "It's constantly on your mind. "We're extremely worried.

"The water is at an exceptional high level. The idea that we have five months at least of winter weather to come.

"A slightly worse than average winter and we're in for a very difficult time here.

"Two thirds of the solution is now in place and one third remains to be done and the idea, in addition to the house being demolished, that further houses could be demolished because of a lack of completion of the works, you cannot make common sense out of it."