Stormont departments urged to help with flood recovery

Stormont departments urged to help with flood recovery

5 June 2024

TWO leading government departments have been urged to play a key role to help the continued recovery of Downpatrick town centre following last November’s devastating flood which cost millions of pounds of damage.

The Departments of Economy and Communities have been urged to work in partnership with Newry, Mourne and Down Council to help business owners whose premises were engulfed by flood water which was six feet high in places.

South Down SDLP Westminster election candidate Colin McGrath is appealing to the organisations to work together as part of a joined-up approach to assist the Downpatrick business community and agree a road map plotting a course towards economic recovery.

Mr McGrath said there is “great frustration” at the slow pace of recovery and support for beleaguered businesses.

He said the spell of heavy flooding experienced last year after the wettest October on record was devastating for this entire area. 

“Not only did people see their businesses damaged or destroyed, years of hard work were literally washed away,” said Mr McGrath.

“This has had a huge knock-on effect in Downpatrick and the local economy with many people’s jobs impacted and all the pressures that come with that.”

The parliamentary election candidate suggested it is not an exaggeration to say that Downpatrick is “struggling to get back on its feet”.

He continued: “Promised support has come far too slowly or not at all and I know that many business owners feel totally abandoned and let down by Stormont’s response.

“Downpatrick is a fantastic community. It is an area rich in history, with beautiful scenery and we have so much to offer. But it’s going to take a lot of hard work to get us where we need to be.”

The SDLP candidate believes there is a need for a proper plan to be put in place through a joint effort from the government departments and local council that “recognises the difficulties we have experienced and plots a path to putting things right”.

He continued: “There are no end of things we could do to sell Downpatrick, from awareness events to advertising campaigns which promote the very best of what we have to offer.

“We need to revitalise the town, increase footfall and give people a reason to come down and visit. Businesses cannot be expected to rebuild on their own. We need to give them a helping hand.”

Mr McGrath said he is aware of increasing concern in the community that there could be similar flooding in future, particularly from those who have invested so much in building things back up. 

He added: “We are still waiting on the flood investigation report and I would urge the Department for Infrastructure to accelerate this and provide reassurances that the flooding witnessed last November will never happen again so that we can move on with confidence and put Downpatrick back on the map.”