Executive meeting to discuss flooding

Cllr Declan McAlinden and SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly at Kinnego which has been flooded
Cllr Declan McAlinden and SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly at Kinnego which has been flooded
  • Dozens of jobs in jeopardy due to flooding
  • Lough Neagh at a 30 year high
  • Meeting of NI Executive to be held today

The NI Executive is expected to meet today to discuss the impact of recent flooding.

It is understood they will discuss how a £1.3m emergency fund from the UK government is to be allocated.

Environment Minister Mark H Durkan has called for the fund to be extended to businesses and community facilities.

Several businesses on the shores of Lough Neagh have been badly damaged by rising waters.

SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly had called for an urgent Executive meeting and said a decision on how to use the money had to be made “quickly”.

“Make sure the money goes to those most in need and to areas where it’s needed,” Ms Kelly added.

“People need some sort of guarantee that people care and those that are in the executive will listen to their cries for help.”

Last Thursday, the agriculture, environment and regional development ministers held an emergency meeting with government agencies dealing with the floods.

They discussed immediate measures that could be put in place after water levels in Lough Neagh reached a 30-year high.

The Rivers Agency has said “repeated winter storms” have put pressure on the lough and its outlets.

Ms Kelly has also called for rates relief for businesses that have been affected by flooding.

She said: “I’m glad that the Executive will now meet on Monday to address the situation but there must now be serious questions asked about the delay in responding to what has become a livelihood threatening situations for many business owners.

“I hope that at this meeting the Executive will agree to proposals submitted by Minister Durkan several weeks back to extend the Emergency Financial Assistance Scheme to businesses and community facilities like Church halls. I have met with a number of businesses owners around Lough Neagh and all are deeply worried for the future. Even though they are unable to trade the financial pressures of staff, taxes and rates remain. It is no exaggeration to say that many off these businesses could be closing their doors within weeks.

“As we wait for proactive action from some Executive Ministers, local councils can help by offering rates relief to businesses left devastated by flooding. The head of the Rates Agency has already advised his staff to be sympathetic to those businesses and this is a welcome development. The next step is to offer them some kind of rates relief.”

South Shore Marine and Diesel outside Lurgan has been badly affected by flooding. Business owner Paul Quinn said: “This is not the flash flooding that we have seen in Cumbria. The water is not receding and no one can predict when it will. Where other parts are getting back to normal, the clean-up operation here has not even begun. It is impossible for small businesses to plan for the short and long term future under these circumstances and today I will be forced to make the decision on whether I keep my staff or not. That is how bad things have got. Because my property is not residential I have been abandoned by the Executive. Without immediate financial help my business and the many others in the same position will not survive.”