*Photograph: James Truett
Repeated instances of flooding at Kildysart Graveyard has caused devastation for families whose loved ones are buried there.
Roughly 300 burial grounds are located at the graveyard in Kildysart with up to a third of these affected by flooding which has covered the graves and washed away ornaments and personal mementos.
Locals in Kildysart have described the scenes of floating items in the graveyard as horrific. They are seeking works to the Fergus Estuary embankment to avoid having to experience the repeated trauma at the graveyard two to three times a year.
Former county councillor, Oliver Garry cited climate change as increasing the incidence of flooding at the location since the storms of 2014. He believed the embankment needed to be raised promptly, “they don’t make it a priority when there isn’t homes or houses being flooded”.
He recalled an assessment by consultant engineers hired by the Council in 2014, “they came up with a plan that would entail about €500,000 worth of works being done at Lisheen in the Ennis side of Kildysart and Carnacalla in Kilrush, there were quite a few breaches of the embankment. There was money earmarked for the graveyard at the time, when they used up the money to get the other breaches done on the Estuary they came to Kildysart and said the consultant engineers didn’t recommend that the area be repaired”.
Michelle Cogley (neé McNamara) of the Quay Rd moved back to Kildysart in 2013. Her two parents, Michael and Nancy and her baby daughter Emma are buried at the graveyard. “The first time it happened all of my daughter’s grave, all of the angles and butterflies on the grave were scattered around the graveyard, it took me ages to go around and locate them. Thereafter anytime we hear of a storm or possible flooding, we go down and take off all the little ornaments and bring them home just so it doesn’t happen again, it is absurd and I shouldn’t have to be doing it,” she said.
When her father was buried in 1978, Michelle noted that the area at the front was known as “the driest part of the graveyard”. Regrettably, that is no longer the case and she has been forced to place ceramic pots on their graves and also remove any little angels from her daughter’s resting place. “We just want respect to be shown to the people buried there. People will say to me not to think about it and that is only their remains and they are not there, all of that is fine but it is all we have left to take care of belonging to them, it is why it upsets us so much when it does happen”.
Retired Council worker, Joe McNamara admitted that the sight of graves covered in water was terrible. “Disrespectful is a mild word as far as I’m concerned, it is beyond talking, the poor craters are gone to God, they’re buried out at sea the way things are”.
His parents are buried at the grave, Joe felt memories of loved ones are tarnished by the flooding. “You’d be devastated to witness it, you remember the people when they were alive and a lot of them were our neighbours or our friends, they are laid to rest and this is how they are treated. It is a health hazard. It is by no means healthy to have the tidal water flowing around there. If that was in a priority area like Drumcliffe or somewhere that is considered more important we might be taken care of”.
Cllr PJ Kelly (FF) recently asked the West Clare Municipal District to alleviate flooding at the graveyard. “People go there to pay their respects, it is very upsetting and emotional to find the graves are underwater. I would like if we could be more humane and do something special to alleviate the pressures on people”.
Acting senior executive engineer with the Council’s project management office, Steve Lahiffe said the local authority has repaired and upgraded various sections of embankment and sluices along the Shannon Estuary in recent years including repairs in Ballycorick, Ballynacally, Iniscorker and Lacknashannagh.
Consultants RPS examined the causes of flooding at Kildysart Graveyard, he confirmed. “They had concerns that some of the proposed solutions may have implications to land and property downstream of the site. A preferred option was identified that eliminated this risk. This option is technically and environmentally possible and economically viable. This involves the construction of a flood embankment. However the land required for the works is in private ownership currently and Clare County Council are not in a position to acquire the lands”.