Anger as Executive ducks cash for floods issue

Water levels at Kinnego Marina shops rising
Water levels at Kinnego Marina shops rising

Business owners badly affected by severe flooding on the south shore of Lough Neagh have vented fury at the NI Executive fudged making decision on spending Westminster cash.

On Monday the Executive met but did not decide on how the £1.3m should be spent.

Lough Neagh Rescue's Kinnego Station is flooded

Lough Neagh Rescue's Kinnego Station is flooded

They squabbled over whether to spend the money on prevention of future flooding or on schemes to help those affected by the flooding.

As Paul Quinn stood almost knee deep in flood water at his Kinnego based business, he said he was livid at all the political parties and their lack of action.

It was reported on Monday that Stormont ministers had agreed to spend the money on prevention.

However, Mr Durkan said a sub-group had been set up and no final decision had been taken.

Flooding around Lough Neagh Discovery Centre.

Flooding around Lough Neagh Discovery Centre.

Mr Quinn, owner of South Shore Marine & Diesel said: “I am more than angry at both the lack of action and the attitude of these politicians.”

He was particularly scathing of the Secretary of State Teresa Villiers who visited the floods gates at Toome and asked why she had not visited the areas affected by the flood on the south shore.

Mr Quinn said the water on Lough Neagh was rising and the flood levels at Kinnego were rising also.

He demanded an investigation on the management of the flood gates at Toome.

Plus he called for people to void their vote at the next Assembly election as he said politicians were ‘useless’.

“Fair play Dolores Kelly did her best and last week there was lots of support but we feel very let down by the lack of action at Stormont,” he said.

At least 30 jobs are in jeopardy at various businesses along the lough shore, with up to 20 under threat alone at the Kinnego stores.

Meanwhile SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly criticised Executive Ministers who after an Emergency meeting to address flooding agreed only to form another working group to report to the first scheduled meeting of the Executive on 21st January.

She said: “Five weeks after £50million was made available to flood victims in England and two days after the Scottish First Minister make £12million available, our Executive’s only move has been to announce another meeting 10 days from now. We can now confirm that beyond the relief funds released by the Environment Minister, the first help that flood victims will get from their Executive will be after 21st January.

“There are 220 good reasons to resolve this now – that is the number of millimetres of rain that fell last month, devastating homeowners, businesses and communities. But it now appears that this Executive is totally incapable of taking action. Every day has been an insult to people devastated by floods.

“On the 5th January Mark H Durkan called for a full emergency meeting of the Executive to spend the £1.3million on meaningful action. What we got instead was a sideshow of faux activity over a week which saw a Ministerial summit without any spending power and now a full Executive meeting to set up a working group.

“We have the money, we know what the problem is, and we have identified the victims. Why are we now waiting another two weeks before making the decisive intervention that is so desperately needed for businesses and homeowners across the region? What more evidence of suffering does the DUP and Sinn Féin need before they step up to the plate and address this problem?”

Meanwhile the head of the Rivers Agency said dredging would not have made 1mm of difference to flooding around Lough Neagh.

David Porter told the agriculture committee that the problem was the levels of the lough and that the volume of water flowing into it is five times that which can flow out.

Nine rivers flow into Lough Neagh. Only one, the lower River Bann, flows out.

Sinn Féin councillor Fergal Lennon called for an investigation of the circumstances surrounding the flooding.

The Councillor expressed sympathy for all business affected by flooding and pointed out that the immediate concern was to get affected businesses back trading.