In Conversation NI Bronagh and Eleni


Bronagh and Eleni, Visit Derry (In Person. Derry, Northern Ireland)

Bronagh and Eleni tell me about the recent floods in Northern Ireland.


JO: you’ve both experience of what’s happened. I’m here with Bronagh at the Londonderry Tourist …

B: Derry Visitor Information Centre

JO: So thanks for talking to me … and us. We were just talking about … I came in and asked, perhaps a little bid oddly, for “where would you go if you were trying to see some evidence of what happened in the last – what was it – three weeks ago or something?”

B: three weeks ago.

JO: and what did happen?

B: there was a lot of rain. There was rainfall for about 7 hours straight. And there was lots of flooding, and roads were closed.

JO: so this is just runoff, like, off the land. It’s nothing to do with storm surges or sea or anything ….

B: it was the rainfall … and burst rivers …

JO: it was the huge amount of rainfall … they burst their …

B: they burst their banks.

JO: ok. And you were telling me about – your family had sort of direct experience, didn’t it, immediately?

B: That night, when my son was coming back from Belfast, from a concert, they were all put off the bus on the way home because they couldn’t go any further. And he was very worried and panicked. None of the parents .. .there were 5 sets of parents because there were 5 friends … we couldn’t do anything to get to them because of the floods. And they … I was worried about the state of my son because he was in a panic

JO: yes

B: So they were heading towards the Belfry Inn, which actually put up about 100 people that night, when the police stopped and took them to his friend’s house. And he stayed there the night, which was a relief. That state of panic and worry lasted for about two hours.

JO: pretty uncomfortable yes?

B: And they were out still walking in the rain, cold, and wet, and miserable and not knowing what to do.

JO: And you say you considered going to get them at one point but the water was too much?

B: The water level was too high and the coach .. the bus couldn’t go through so a car couldn’t have gone through it. And then all the back roads were flooded – the country roads – but the police came and picked them up in a big 4 x4 and they were able to get through it.

JO: Has the response subsequently been ok or has it been a bit slow? I’ve seen a couple of stories saying “eek! We weren’t really prepared for this kind of stuff”, but, have they caught up?

B: No, I think at the minute, they’re still doing repairs, and here, especially, we do have a lot of rainfall – they should have been better prepared. But, we haven’t seen anything like that. Nobody had seen anything like that – that amount of rainfall.

JO: as I told you, I’m thinking about the context of climate change and everything. I’ve just come back from two weeks with my Godmother, who I hadn’t seen for a long time, in the South of France. She hadn’t had rain there since May, I think. They hadn’t had any rain since May. And apparently half the Mediterranean is on fire …. like in Rome they have water shortages because they’ve used a lake to try and put out all these fires and they’ve now run low …

B: right

JO: and we know that in the States, they’ve got huge problems, haven’t they, in Texas ?

B: and also there’s fires ….

JO: yes, in California, in particular. Are people here sort of bothered about climate change? Just thinking about the public …

B: I think more so now because of all the news from all over the world. You know everybody sees it on TV and Facebook etc – more people are aware of it and I think it’s starting to worry a lot of people.

JO : Is this seen as being part and parcel of it?

B: Yes.

JO: So, people are making those connections.

B: Everybody is aware that the climate is changing everywhere. Even people in here were talking about it’s the end of the world. You know … to that extent. A lot of people were freaked out by what happened. And it’s nowhere near what happens in the States.

JO: yes

B: I think people now are becoming more and more aware and hopefully …

JO: what are we going to do about it?

B: Exactly, that’s what I am saying … hopefully the people in charge …

JO: … but that’s you!

B: … but what can I do?

JO: well, you’re in charge …

B: … about rivers overflowing?

JO: well, that’s the question. I’m being slightly flippant but .. do you feel like you know what we can do? My sense is that actually there are things we can do but no one has made an extremely good effort at communicating it so people are slightly at a loss.

B: yes. That’s the way I feel at the minute. Let me get my colleague. I’m sure she’ll have something to say about it.

JO: That’s been absolutely brilliant. Thank you very much. You’re rather good at it actually ….

… so now being joined by …

E: Eleni from VisitDerry.

JO: Eleni

E: yes

JO: Hi. Thanks very much. And, you … you’ve also got some stories to tell about what has just happened, yes?

E: yes, sure … about the floods … I think it was about a month ago now …

JO: yes

E: and … so on the way back, I left work on Tuesday evening and the weather was pretty grim then … about 7 o clock, the rain started really heavy downpours and .. thunder and lightning .. the whole works … it was pretty scary getting back home … it took me probably about an hour and a half to drive about 16 miles. And I was lucky … I was following the car in front … and the roads were totally flooded and I didn’t think at one stage that I would make it .. but anyway, thankfully I got back and I discovered in the morning when I was trying to get back up to work … that part of the road … the main road … had collapsed .. so it was closed off so [ ]

JO: this is the A6 ….

B: A2

JO: the A2

E: yes .. so basically .. what they did … they were diverting us up like the mountain around … [ ] the .. a lorry had actually tried to go up the detour .. up a wee country lane and the weight of the lorry … the road had collapsed as well … so we couldn’t get into work at all … so everybody had to turn back and it took them several weeks to fix the road and now effectively it’s open …

JO: Are most places sort of back to

E: most of them …

JO: status quo ante?

E: up and running … yes … so the council have done a great job … they had to work very hard but they … yes … they’ve got it open again

JO: there was a bit of criticism, I think, that we weren’t as prepared as we could have been … do you think … do you think they’ve just put it back to how it was and we’re going to get hit again or … ?

E: well you don’t know … you know … this is all the … everybody’s talking about climate change. It’s only when it affects you personally that you sort of sit up and really take notice of it all …

JO: yes, it’s starting to bite a lot of people on the bum a bit …

E: absolutely ’cause it’s not the kind of thing that I’ve experienced anything as bad in recent years so … yes … you just wonder whether it will happen again

JO: and … and we were talking about whether anyone sort of feels they knowwhat changes need to be made?

E: well … there’s chat of course of more investment in the roads … and everything like that … but also they’re talking about maybe helping plant more trees and things like that there to help the embankment … do you know what I mean? ’cause at the moment …

JO: stabilise all the structure …

E: yes … stabilise … stabilise that as well ’cause that long term would hopefully help but obviously that’s going to take a long time …

JO: yes …

E: it’s not going to happen overnight …

JO: yes … you see this is what I want to try and do … for myself … but I think it’s a conversation we all need to be having … I want to try and reimagine the UK as it needs to be … as it probably needs to be like that in 3 – 5 years because we can’t keep pushing … what’s it called … kicking the can down the road ..

E: yes … absolutely

JO: you know … it’s actually coming too late and I think we’re talking about really quite drastically altering the … the landscape … you know

E: absolutely …

JO: trams instead of … regional trams … light rail … instead of motor cars … motorbikes … motorcars .. you know … massive changes …

E: massive changes and it’s to get everybody’s mindset .. you know … to think about the future and what’s going to happen … not just in our lifetime but in …

JO: it’s happening now, yes?

E: yes … exactly …

JO: I do feel we’re talking about whether there’s going to be a world that’s inhabitable for grandkids if not … if not children …. so people in their twenties .. I even think

E: absolutely … we’re seeing it now … so what’s going to happen in another 10 or 15, 20 years’ time? It’s …. yes … that kind of thing ..

JO: are there? I think Bronagh you were saying your default was to expect those in charge, whoever they are, to be coming forward with the answers … but do you feel the same or do you feel that it’s going to have to come from us and force them to do the right thing ..

E: I think it’s going to be a collective thing …. yes absolutely … it’s going to have to be a collective thing and it’s going to have get everybody on board to … you know … to realise exactly what’s going on … that there is this climate change happening here and now …

JO: is it on the Northern Irish political scene … sort of … in terms of politicians or not really?

E: you’d have to ask them

JO: … but it’s not … it doesn’t seem to be top of the … top of the agenda …

B: not at the minute … [ ] …

JO: it’s not in the rest of the UK

B: they can’t agree now … they’re not even in government at the minute ’cause they can’t agree

JO: yes

B: they’re not sitting in Stormont at the minute so …

JO: I’ll have to go up there tomorrow or the day after … but there’s nothing to see there at the moment

B: well they’re in talks now, aren’t they? They’ve just started back …

E: well, hopefully something is going to happen soon ’cause something has to …

JO: yes … I suspect … I suspect it’s going to have to be the public basically forcing them ’cause they had … you know … if you think about it … they’ve had 25 years …. I keep saying “they” … but the people in the hot seats have had 25 years to do something and they haven’t … well not much … so …

E: not enough anyway … that’s for sure … so … yes

JO: Thank you both … that’s really good

E: You’re welcome.