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Politicians demand ‘immediate support packages’ for all hit by floods devastation

"Now and urgently we need to see an unprecedented level of financial support made available by government in the aftermath of this unprecedented level of destruction."

Flooding in Newry

Political representatives have been calling for an “immediate package of support” to help businesses and residents left devastated by this week’s flooding.

Much of Newry city centre was left under water on Tuesday after the canal burst its banks.

And the situation in Banbridge and Portadown – much of which was left impassable today (Wednesday) after the Bann burst its banks – has led to renewed calls for an investigation.

There have also been calls for “decisive action” to ensure there is never a repeat of the unprecedented scenes which have been unfolding over the past 48 hours.

SDLP Newry and Armagh MLA Justin McNulty – which calling for “immediate” support for those affected – has also request urgent meetings with Stormont’s top civil servants.

He said he wants to “secure emergency funding to support business recovery and to ensure that Newry is protected from future flooding disasters”.

“People are all still in a state of shock and are reeling from this week’s devastating flooding,” said the SDLP representative.

“I have spoken with families who are faced with homes that have been destroyed and businesses that have been wiped out.  I want to thank everyone who dropped what they were doing to support the relief effort – from ordinary people who carried and distributed sandbags to the farmers who brought equipment and machinery to affected areas to pump water away – it was fantastic to see community spirit in action.

“There are serious questions that need to be answered, chief amongst them being about adequate forewarning and preparation, and how Newry Canal was allowed to burst its banks when effective utilisation of the gates at Victoria Lock may well have spared Sugar Island from devastation.

“Now and urgently we need to see an unprecedented level of financial support made available by government in the aftermath of this unprecedented level of destruction.

“Finally, we need to see immediate and decisive action from government departments to ensure this never happens again.

“We need an investigation into the decisions leading up to Wednesday’s devastating floods and we need a multi-agency approach to eliminate the risk of such an event taking place again.

“My laser focus is now on securing the support packages and future planning that the people, families and businesses I represent need and deserve.”

Local Alliance representatives have been making similar calls.

There needs to be an emergency financial support scheme for businesses, according to South Down MLA Patrick Brown and Councillor Andrew McMurray.

Flooding has caused serious disruption across Counties Down, Armagh and Antrim, with many areas of Newry particularly affected in recent days, leaving some businesses without flood insurance due to previous flooding in the city.

Mr Brown said the situation had been exacerbated by the lack of an Executive, meaning an inability to create a strategic response to the crisis and properly invest in infrastructure.

“The flooding seen across Northern Ireland has been shocking, with it being particularly unprecedented in Newry and South Down,” said Mr Brown.

“Whilst households can access an emergency support scheme of up to £1,000, Alliance has contacted the Departments of Infrastructure and Finance for urgent clarification on what will be put in place to support businesses, many of whom have lost thousands in stock and equipment from these floods. That could be in the form of rate relief or additional discretionary support.

“There is no doubt the lack of an Executive and Ministers is exacerbating the situation. A more strategic approach would allow proper investment in our infrastructure to improve rainwater management systems and rehabilitate our sewers, helping prevent such scenes reoccurring.

“In the absence of that, Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris needs to step up and provide leadership to ensure Northern Ireland receives the financial support required to recover from the impact of this flooding.”

Councillor McMurray said the local Alliance team had been working closely with those leading the multi-agency response to the flooding and urged anyone affected to seek the help available.

He added: “I want to thank the council and other agencies for their work on this issue, as they have been working around the clock to support businesses and households affected.

“Now in the absence of an Executive, we need the Secretary of State to step up and provide the financial support to allow local recovery to take place.

“These floods are as a direct result of climate change and our inability to improve our infrastructure. With extreme weather events increasing and no Executive in place to invest in what needs improved, it’s likely we will see similar events across Northern Ireland in future.

“In the meantime, I urge anyone affected by the floods to ring the Floodline on 03002000100, where they can report flooding, request sand bags and find out more about the household assistance scheme.

“I would also encourage everyone to follow PSNI advice and avoid all but essential travel. Our Alliance local council team will continue to support people as required.”

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