O’Neill vows to push for flood hardship fund for businesses

Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill is to push for the flood victims’ hardship scheme to be rolled out to local businesses.

Speaking at the launch of a new £1m scheme to help protect homes from flooding, the Minister said: “We have seen all the damage and hardship that flooding can have on individuals and communities so I am delighted that this scheme will help homeowners.

Michelle O'Neill (Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development)  and David Porter (Cheif Executive Rivers Agency) today viewed the flooding at Meghan Ni Raifeartaigh's home at Derryall Portadown. Also in the photograph is Meghan's mum Cathy Rafferty.

Michelle O'Neill (Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development) and David Porter (Cheif Executive Rivers Agency) today viewed the flooding at Meghan Ni Raifeartaigh's home at Derryall Portadown. Also in the photograph is Meghan's mum Cathy Rafferty.

When pressed by the Times, she revealed that she is set to recommend that the hardship fund be extended to local businesses.

Ms O’Neill said 30 businesses, 30 homes and several farms have been badly affected by recent flooding.”

She said she plans to recommend to her Executive colleagues next week that the fund be extended to those businesses also affected.

View her full interview here.

Meanwhile SDLP Upper Bann MLA Dolores Kelly responded: “A month after receiving the money from Westminster and after continued SDLP pressure to act, the lights have finally switched on in the Sinn Fein ministerial offices. The Agriculture Minister has at last seen sense and is backing Mark H Durkan’s plan to extend relief to businesses which have up to now been abandoned by his Executive colleagues.

“That said, I question why the Minister did not endorse this idea at the emergency Executive meeting which could have meant businesses in need would have received help by now. The benefits of the plan were clear and obviously sound as she is now claiming it as her own. Either this is plagiarism politics of the highest order or it just took time to sink in.

“I have first-hand knowledge of the impact the delay in action has had on businesses and knowing that my colleague had suggested a course of action as far back as the 23rd December is galling. Indeed had it not been for Minister Durkan continually highlighting that a flood fund of £1.3m had been supplied by Westminster, there would have been no impetus for an emergency meeting and no guarantee that this money would have been used to help people in their hour of need.

“In times of crisis people need government to take action to help, not engage in political games. I urge the Executive once again to act quickly to benefit the people it represents, regardless of their own party interests.”