A DISABLED Carlow grandmother has been ‘camping out’ in her own home following a devastating flood last year. Susan McGough, a 65-year-old widow and amputee from St Mullins, said she is living in a hovel following the flood and has been stonewalled by statutory agencies in seeking humanitarian aid.
More than €50,000 worth of damage was caused to her cottage on the River Barrow in February last year. Over the last 12 months, Susan and local councillor Tommy Kinsella have worked tirelessly to get aid – without success – going to successive government departments and statutory bodies.
“It’s like camping out in a hovel. It was never a palace but it’s very hard now, very depressing,” she said.
Flooding outside the house happens roughly once a year, but that fateful February night was a first in her 30 years of living in St Mullins. Susan described it as “unbelievable” as water mixed with sewage came up through the drains and floor.
It took a week to clear out the debris after the flood and months for the cottage to dry out. Susan only moved back into the house three months after the flood. She hasn’t slept in her downstairs bedroom since the damage.
Scouring online, Susan came across the Humanitarian Assistance Scheme (HAS), which provides financial help to flood victims and is administered by the Department of Social Welfare. Susan made an application and was visited by the department’s local community welfare officer (CWO) Shay Murphy. Susan said she received €300 to cover her petrol costs and accommodation with a friend.
Mr Murphy also arranged for the payment of a loss assessor under the scheme. The loss assessor put the restoration work at €55,818.29, including €43,000 for building works. However, there has been no further development under HAS.
“Why have a fund if it’s not going to be available to those who need it?” she asked.
The Nationalist contacted the CWO Shay Murphy, who said the responsibility lay with Carlow County Council. The CWO said compensation for structural works under HAS did not come near the €40,000 quoted by the loss assessor. Incredibly, Mr Murphy said he did not know the maximum amount HAS could pay out, stating that the limits were “not specified”.
The council’s housing officer Tim Butler stated that he could not comment on individual cases but said the council was not responsible for repairing private houses.
“I’m assuming any works relating to the flood would come in under humanitarian aid,” he said.
Cllr Tommy Kinsella said there was an onus on state bodies to assist Susan.
“All she wants to do is live in the house without stenches and smells and mould to what it was before. In this day an age, there must be an agency to help a woman like that,” he said.