An “urgent” independent review of the causes and failures behind the “catastrophic” floods in Newry and Downpatrick is to be initiated by the local authority.
A special sitting of Newry, Mourne and Down District Council (NMDDC) on Monday night (November 6) heard emotive first hand reports from elected reps on businesses, homes, churches and community groups across the district left “decimated” from the water damage.
All councillors have now also pledged to lobby Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris for a combined Stormont and Westminster financial package to support those affected by the recent floods.
The cross-party motion was brought forward by Downpatrick Sinn Féin rep Oonagh Hanlon in the Downshire chamber.
It read: “This council acknowledges the devastation that recent floods have inflicted on our district.
“Council commends the efforts of workers, community responders, the emergency services and others who assisted within local communities where unprecedented flooding took place. Council agrees that a robust and comprehensive review of its response throughout these incidents should commence immediately.”
Cllr Hanlon added: “As people and businesses watched their homes go underwater, I myself witnessed first hand people in south Armagh pulling together to support each other.
“As the days go on the extent of the devastation becomes clearer and clearer, and people will rightly demand answers.
“With an event of this magnitude it is only right that see a review commence urgently, the public deserves transparency and in many cases the much needed answers.
“In Downpatrick the effects of this flooding have been been catastrophic, we need to know was every single preventative measure enacted to try and stop this happening.
“The Secretary fo State needs to come down and see for himself first hand the damage caused.
“There have been people who have been genuinely traumatised and we must not forget about them.”
An amendment by NMDDC deputy chairperson and Downpatrick SDLP rep, Gareth Sharvin was added to the motion.
He said: “We now need a financial package to save these businesses and the jobs they provide to local residents; any financial package should not be a gesture, but needs to be significant.
“I would like to request that all councillors in this chamber sign a letter to the Secretary of State calling for assistance now.
“This is not the time for politics, it is a time for the chamber to unite for all local people and businesses.
“I would also request for the council to set up an independent review of this serious incident.
“It should include what addition flood alleviation systems can be installed.
“Also, we as a council need a creation of a pop up space to enable those businesses affected by the floods to find an alternative unit or place to trade on the run up to Christmas and be immediately implemented.”