5 October 2018 No Comments by The Northern Standard

The shell-shocked residents of Magheracloone and the surrounding area still coming to terms with the impact and ongoing effects of the major land subsidence in their midst on Sunday night September 23 last have two compelling requirements that all those involved in dealing with the incident and its aftermath must have uppermost in their considerations.

One is an assurance of their current and continued personal safety, and the other is a reassurance that the causes of the incident will be expediently identified and communicated to the public and that measures will be taken in so far as possible to prevent any recurrence. Commendably, both Monaghan Co Council and the mining firm Gyproc, who have important responsibilities to discharge in order to ensure that these obligations are met, acted this week to address the issues of safety and reassurance.

Monday’s meeting of Monaghan Co Council commenced with a considered statement from Chief Executive Eamonn O’Sullivan which concerned the principal spheres of responsibility that falls to the Co Council to discharge in the circumstances of such an occurrence. And Mr O’Sullivan’s comments were followed by an equally measured bout of questions and commentary confined in the main to the local public representatives for the area concerned.

While councillors did not refrain from asking some difficult and probing questions, they were careful to eschew the alarmist and the speculative and we hope that the report of the discussion that we carry in detail on our Carrickmacross News pages provides some clarity to the people of the Magheracloone and surrounding area on the issues that are preoccupying them at the present time. As Sinn Féin councillor Colm Carthy astutely observed on Monday, the vacuum created by an irregular flow of information from the authoritative sources is very quickly filled by the grist from the rumour mill.

Speculation about the causes of this incident has been rife in its aftermath and it is very important that those dealing with the issue, whether they be the local authority, the Department of Environment, the Environmental Protection Agency or the mining company operating in the area, keep local people appraised of the ongoing investigations and remedial and preventative measures being put in place to deal with the effects of the incident and prevent any repeat.

We therefore commend and extend appreciation to Gyproc for responding quite thoroughly and openly to our own queries on the issue in a question-and-answer interview this week. Their cognisance of their close links with, and obligations to, the local community at a time of challenge and difficulty for themselves shines clearly through. While the detail they supply in our interview and in an information statement for local residents which the company issued this week do not answer all the questions that the incident has provoked, it should be borne in mind that we are still at the early stages of a very complex process of cause-finding and specialist geological and technical examination. It behoves everyone with the best interests of the local community and the local economy at heart, in particular the media and local and national public representatives, to allow that process due time for gestation and germination.

That is not to say, however, that what happened in Magheracloone should not provoke immediate address of some of its aspects. The nature of the incident and what we so far know of its origins should prompt Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Denis Naughten TD and the officials of his Department to closely examine the extent and condition in this country of sites where underground mining operations once took place and which now lie in various stages of abeyance or even abandonment.

An audit of such locations, and a review of the monitoring and safeguarding procedures that are in place to oversee them, would surely be timely. At national level, such an investigation would be an appropriate response and it is to be hoped that Minister Naughten was sufficiently convinced of the seriousness of this issue on his visit to Magheracloone in the days following the incident to have at least started the ball rolling in this direction in his Department.

But while the broader issues which the occurrence touches on are important to address, at local level the impact on the lives of local people is what is most pressing and concerning. The wonderful community engine that is the Magheracloone Mitchells GFC has been dealt a staggering blow; a number of local families have been forced to leave their homesteads, and the tempo of business and community life has been significantly jarred by the necessary road closures and diversions which the local authority have put in place.

But the fissures that have opened up in Magheracloone community life are, while severe, only superficial. The process of physical repair will take some time, and the trauma of the incident will stay in the minds of local people for a long time to come, no doubt – but for the people of Magheracloone the healing has already begun, initiated by countless small acts of solidarity, good neighbourliness, decency and kindness that might never make the columns of even a local newspaper but which are, hour by hour and day by day, salving wounds and binding the community even tighter as it makes its way through this time of trial.

As the people of the area rebuild their lives and community, they have an entitlement from all the appropriate authorities and interests involved in the ongoing investigation of the subsidence incident to have their sense of safety and reassurance constantly and honestly enforced.

Hopefully the good work begun in this regard by Monaghan Co Council and Gyproc this week will continue.

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