NI Secretary of State apologises for ‘insensitive’ Facebook flood remarks

Facebook page  from Sacretary of State
Facebook page from Sacretary of State

The NI Secretary of State Theresa Villiers has apologised for remarks she made on Facebook regarding the flooding crisis.

Ms Villiers had been branded ‘insensitive’ after her Facebook remarks on the flooding disaster.

She posted a photograph of herself and the chief of the Rivers Agency in Northern Ireland David Porter at the sluice gates at Toomebridge.

However in comments posted underneath the Secretary of State said: “It’s times like this that I am grateful that I live on top of a hill.”

Posting on her official page as MP for Chipping Barnet, Ms Villiers said she had a ‘useful’ visit to Toomebridge to see the sluice gates which control the water level at Lough Neagh.

However many businesses on the south shore of Lough Neagh have been severely flooded due to the high levels of the lough.

And there are at least 20 jobs in jeopardy at Kinnego Marina alone due to the disaster.

A number of local businesses directly affected by the flooding voiced fury at the remarks branding them as ‘insensitive’.

One queried why the Secretary of State had not visited anyone affected by the floods, though her boss Prime Minister David Cameron visited Cumbria on a number of occasions during their flood crisis.

When this journalist put the concerns to the Secretary of State via the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) she responded via email with an apology.

She stated: “I was concerned to read your email in relation to a comment on my constituency Facebook page. I appreciate your taking time to contact the NIO about this and I wanted to respond.

“I want to assure you that I did not intend to cause any offence to anyone affected by the recent flooding in Northern Ireland. I would like to offer my sincere apologies for the comment and for any offence which it caused. With hindsight, I realise that this informal response to a Facebook posting was insensitive and inappropriate.

“Along with the whole Government I take the issue of flooding extremely seriously. I fully recognise the great distress and upheaval that recent floods in NI and across other parts of the UK have caused, including around the Lurgan area. I pass on my sympathies to all those who have been affected.

“It was entirely out of concern for the victims of the floods that I visited the sluice gates at Toome on Monday. I was keen to see for myself how the Rivers Agency has responded to the floods and what lessons can be learned for the future.

“The UK Government announced just before Christmas an additional £51 million to support those affected by the floods, of which Northern Ireland will receive £1.3 million. I have also held discussions with the Northern Ireland Environment Minister, as well as the First and deputy First Ministers, about how this extra support for those affected will be spent.

“Once again I offer my sincere apologies and sympathy to all those who have suffered as a result of the floods.”