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Lying under four feet of floodwater: the planned route of multimillion pound road to Dublin

By Linda Stewart

Published 12/12/2015

The flooded meadows at Woodend in Co Tyrone, which is part of the proposed route for the upgraded A5 between Derry and Dublin
The flooded meadows at Woodend in Co Tyrone, which is part of the proposed route for the upgraded A5 between Derry and Dublin
Fermanagh farmers struggling with waterlogged roads and fields as floodwaters spill over from the Erne. Many local families have been left stranded in their homes
Fermanagh farmers struggling with waterlogged roads and fields as floodwaters spill over from the Erne. Many local families have been left stranded in their homes

This is the route of the planned A5 dual carriageway linking the north west to Dublin as it looked this week - under four feet of floodwater.

The road upgrade is due to be built through these meadows at Woodend in Co Tyrone, even though they lie on a floodplain and are sometimes deluged in summer as well as winter.

Opponents of the ambitious scheme, which had a price tag of £1bn and was Northern Ireland's biggest under its original incarnation, say it would be madness to build a dual carriageway here, especially with the concerns raised over floodplain development.

Farmer Derrick Donnell, who owns the land, says this is the worst flooding he has seen, and it always floods in winter.

The water levels rose rapidly last Saturday night following torrential rain, and at its worst point it was four feet deep.

"Every time there is a wee bit of rain the flood comes up," Mr Donnell said. "Even if you go down in the summertime and feel the ground, it's all shaking; there is no bottom to it at all. It's sitting in a floodplain.

"Looking down at it and going by the fencing posts, I would say it's four feet deep.

"If they build a road there and displace that water, where is it going to go? It's unbelievable."

John Dunbar, chairman of the Alternative A5 Alliance, which is opposed to the full dualling of the road, said the land would still flood if the road was in place.

"It doesn't seem to make an awful lot of sense," he claimed.

He said it was madness to build a major road through a floodplain, particularly as the stormy events linked to climate change are likely to make matters even worse.

"We want to point out that they should keep on the existing road," he told this paper. "The old engineers knew the difficulties of building on a floodplain and they kept on the higher ground.

"If they put in lots of passing places on that road, it would be quite sufficient. It would also avoid severance of the farm."

Agriculture Minister Michelle O'Neill visited deluge-hit Co Fermanagh yesterday and said there was no engineering solution to the problem surrounding Upper Lough Erne. At least 20 roads in the county were closed in the wake of Storm Desmond.

Mrs O'Neill said the problem was one that the local community "will have to deal with time and time again". The minister also dismissed criticism that it took her five days to visit the county and review the damage.

She said: "I think people would prefer to see that the work is done rather than me coming down to get my picture taken."

She said she could well understand the frustration of the local community.

"They have a right to be frustrated. I would be frustrated if I faced the challenges that some of the people in rural Fermanagh face," she said. "But to put it in context, over 110mm of water fell in one day in Fermanagh. That's the monthly average in one day. So that shows why there are significant problems this week."

As the county counts the cost of the stormy conditions and heavy rainfall, the Queen has sent her best wishes to all those who have been affected.

In a message to Lord Lieutenant Viscount Brookeborough, the Queen said: "Please convey my sympathy to all those whose homes or livelihoods have been affected by the recent flooding."

She also paid tribute to members of the emergency services, local authorities and volunteers who have provided assistance "in these difficult conditions".

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