A member of the Maghery Coastal Erosion Group wants Minister Seán Canney to visit the storm-damaged local strand, after OPW refused funding to reinstate and install new coastal defences.
The Office of Public Works (OPW) rejected the application for funding for defences the coastal village of Maghery has sought for the past three years, ever since November 2013 storms badly damaged a lathe system that was in place to build up dunes.
“There was a sandstorm and sand settled everywhere,” Frances Boyle, a member of the coastal erosion group said. Sand swept through nearby houses and the ionad after those storms, and the dunes that had built up in the lathe system eroded.
”To say we’re bitterly disappointed is an understatement,” Frances said. “That’s the culmination of three years of talking, letter-writing, sending photographs, attending meetings, organising meetings, organising people to come out and look at it and putting on workshops.
”And they just dismissed it,” she said.
Frances wants Minister Canney to come to Maghery and see for himself how precarious the situation is for nearby premises.
"There are changes happening, there’s erosion happening,” she said. “We’re going to be in a situation in 10 years down the road when the tide is going to be hitting the community centre.”
She said the community has been working with Donegal County Council. This year, the council provided green netting and other materials, and the Ionad an Mhachaire, the local community centre, organised members of the community to erect a netting fence to trap sand.
Community members planted marram grass this year, after the centre held a workshop on sourcing and planting the protective grass.
The lathe system of dune protection, which is still damaged from the 2013 storms, was recommended by a Coleraine academic in a commissioned study, and remains the protection method favoured by government agencies.
However, local people want to see rock armour behind the lathes for about 150 metres, to protect the ionad and adjacent playground and playing pitch, and to prevent storm surges from taking away any more of the dunes.
“Sand has been trapped, marram grass is growing there,” Frances said. “It is a good job up to now, there’s no doubt about it. But it hasn’t been tested properly.
"Let’s see what happens when the storms come.”
Calling the OPW decision, “a major blow”, Cllr. Marie Therese Gallagher said she is arranging a meeting with stakeholders to ensure other options are considered.
"It is not an option to leave this village defenceless and it is now more important than ever to find a solution without delay,” she said.
The OPW told the Democrat the council’s application under the Minor Flood Mitigation Works and Coastal Protection Scheme was not approved, “as it is not eligible under the criteria of the scheme”.