As if facing Covid-19 restrictions was not bad enough, frontline workers, householders, businesses, and farmers in a North Cork village are at their wits' end due to repeated breakdowns of their water supply.
The plight of people living in Glanworth prompted one of Cork County Council's most senior officials to launch an unprecedented broadside to Irish Water after hundreds of homes were left without a supply for several days and had to rely on buying bottled water or queuing up at tankers.
Frontline workers have been unable to take showers, while elderly people who have back boilers in their homes cannot light fires.
The continuing breaks in mains pipes – six in as many days – led assistant county chief executive James Fogarty, who by his own admission does not usually get involved in Irish Water issues, to criticise the utility company over the situation in Glanworth.
“I've been on to the county engineer about this and asked him to get on to senior people in Irish Water to impress on them that something needs to be done urgently," said Mr Fogarty. "I feel very strongly about this. The community needs to be supported. Some form of emergency funding needs to be found.”
He made his remarks after Fianna Fáil councillor Frank O'Flynn, who lives in the village, suspended standing orders at a council meeting to highlight the issue.
Mr O'Flynn said many mains pipes serving the area are more than 60 years old and as “thin as tissue paper".
He said breaks had become more common in recent years, especially on a 2.5km stretch of mains from the local reservoir into the village.
Valerie Dennehy, who looks after her children and elderly mother, has been unable to turn on heating because she has a back boiler.
“We're using storage heaters," said Ms Dennehy. "I'm worried that another cold snap is coming. We've a lot of elderly people living around here who are probably in the same situation. This needs to be fixed once and for all.”
Kate Dunne and her husband James have three young children and an unusual responsibility – 24 donkeys.
Their land acts as an additional holding base for the Donkey Sanctuary in Liscarroll.
Donkeys like water and the Dunnes were barely able to keep them supplied, although they had offers of help from local farmers.
“Whether or not there's a Covid-19 pandemic going on, this is not acceptable in this day and age,” said Ms Dunne.
Even when the supply is not broken, poor water pressure is a problem for many neighbours, she said.
Anna Gibberd, a mother of four, is a beautician who cannot work from her home at present due to virus restrictions.
She described the water outages as “an absolute nightmare” and spent about €30 on bottled water until the tankers arrived.
“It's literally like living in a third world country,” said Ms Gibberd.
Lizzie Nolan, a mother of one, said she has been complaining about poor water pressure in the village since 2007.
She said it was so bad that “when the toilet is flushed, the washing machine stops working”.
Jenny Kiely, who runs The School Around The Corner preschool, said the situation is particularly difficult for her as children need to be washed, toilets flushed, and toys and equipment regularly cleaned because of Covid-19.
Other local councillors have also waded into Irish Water. “This has deprived people of a basic human right,” said Fine Gael councillor Kay Dawson, while Independent councillor Frank Roche said it was “an absolute disgrace".
Fine Gael councillor Noel McCarthy said ageing mains are also breaking in the nearby villages of Ballyhooly and Killavullen. “These are just some of more problems coming down the road,” said Mr McCarthy.
Water returned to Glanworth yesterday, but many are expecting more outages.
Irish Water said it was working to fix the situation and regrets the inconvenience caused.