Northern Ireland

Heaton-Harris told to help businesses as homeowners receive flooding support

Newry was one of the areas worst hit by the heavy rain and flooding (Brian Lawless/PA)
Newry was one of the areas worst hit by the heavy rain and flooding (Brian Lawless/PA) Newry was one of the areas worst hit by the heavy rain and flooding (Brian Lawless/PA)

Support funding is to be delivered to residents hit by flooding in the Newry, Mourne and Down area this week.

A first batch of 67 funding cheques are to be delivered on Tuesday with a further 20 cheques to follow later this week after heavy rain caused severe flooding in several areas of the council district.

Newry and Downpatrick were badly impacted by flooding, while outside the council’s borders, Portadown and parts of Antrim also suffered.

While a scheme is open for support for residents, in the absence of a functioning Stormont Assembly and ministers, there is less available for businesses counting the costs.

Autumn weather November 1st 2023
Autumn weather November 1st 2023 A view of debris and flood water in Sugar Island in Newry Town, Co Down (Brian Lawless/PA)

The leaders of the five main political parties have written to the Secretary of State, Chris Heaton-Harris, urging him to immediately request additional resources from the Treasury for an emergency relief scheme for householders and businesses.

The chair of Newry, Mourne and Down District Council, Valerie Harte, said the council have also agreed to write to Mr Heaton-Harris asking for assistance.

On Monday, Mr Heaton-Harris said the matter is one for the relevant Northern Ireland departments, and that the Northern Ireland Office continues “to engage with them and Northern Ireland’s parties on the communities impacted”.

He added: “We stand ready to support and provide assistance where possible.”

Northern Ireland Investment Summit 2023
Northern Ireland Investment Summit 2023 Chris Heaton-Harris has been asked to provide extra financial support (Liam McBurney/PA)

Ms Harte visited Newry and Downpatrick on Tuesday, and said the heartache of trying to pick up the pieces after the floods is unimaginable.

“We know that our business community needs a major package of financial assistance and fast,” she said.

“We’ve been lobbying central government and the UK Government and will continue to press all involved to make this happen. This is our top priority as a council, and we have further agreed to write to the Secretary of State calling for this assistance now.

“I do not underestimate the economic recovery task ahead both in the short and long term. The real work of putting our towns and cities back together begins, but what has been achieved in the past few days does give me hope.

“The community spirit from all the volunteers, community and business representatives, and those providing food and drink on the ground does not surprise me but is still so good to see.”

She said the council’s Environmental Health Team have visited more than 100 businesses and received more than 200 requests for advice and support from residents following the flooding through the Scheme of Emergency Financial Assistance.

“Today (Tuesday) 67 cheques are due to be delivered to residents and around 20 further anticipated this week,” she said.

“The Department for Communities’ Finance Support service, for example, is also available for people who find themselves in a financial crisis, including those experiencing financial difficulty as a result of a disaster such as flooding.

“The service provides financial help/support through the provision of Discretionary Support, Social Fund and Universal Credit Contingency Fund.”