Exiles Forum

Lisburn, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland


Heartbreak and courage on the day the rains came

Councillor Jenny Palmer inside the newly refurbished Bridge Community Centre, which was damaged by recent floods.

THE self sacrifice of those who did their best to alleviate the suffering and devastation caused by the floods of August 16 was highlighted at Tuesday evening's council meeting as was the heartbreak experienced by those whose lives were devastated by the deluge.

Special mention was made of a council employee whose initiative saved the newly refurbished Bridge Community Centre from complete disaster.

Councillor Jenny Palmer explained the lady was at a hairdressers in the city centre when the downpour began.

As she left the salon she remembered previous flooding at the building and decided to make sure all was well before going home.

Once inside she went to the basement where, as she feared, water to a depth of at least one foot had already accumulated. The lady realised the only way to deal with the problem was to open the door and let the water flow out.

She waded through both water and sewage and attempted to move filing cabinets and other items to make opening the door easier.

This proved difficult and she telephoned one of the security guards employed at the Bridge who came to help her.

Together they managed to get the door open and the water flowed out, flooding the hut at the rear of the building.

Mrs. Palmer said she had been told if the, door had not been opened the water would have risen to the level of the ceiling in the basement.

She also paid tribute to a resident of Slemish Drive in the Tonagh area who knew exactly where flooding was liable to occur in the vicinity of his home. There was no doubt, she added, his efforts to stem the flow helped restrict flooding in the street to three houses.

Councillors praised the actions of council officers such as Eleanor Shields who went to the Civic Centre to man the phones while people tried to obtain information about who to turn to for help.

Tribute was paid to Corporate Services Director David Briggs who was still in Dromara at midnight offering advice and help to people affected by the flooding. There was also praise for people who helped move cattle and other livestock out of areas where they could have been overwhelmed by the rising waters. Others spoke movingly of the suffering they witnessed as the floods entered people's homes causing devastation.

Councillor William Leathem said he had attended a Fold Housing Complex in the Benson Street area where at least eight of the elderly residents were going to have to leave their homes for a period of months.

He pointed out this was a terrible ordeal for people in their 80's and 90's and said he had also received calls from people experiencing terrible smells from sewage left under their homes once the floods subsided.

Mr. Leathem described seeing shops at Ballymacash forced to close as water entered the premises one after the other.

He also said he had spoken to farmers whose crops were submerged in water several feet deep.

Councillor Jonathan Craig spoke of his experiences at Edgewater off Hillsborough Old Road where a piped trubutary of the Lagan turned into a torrent which took just minutes to flow through homes in the area. Like many other councillors he found it devastating to witness the anguish of people whose cherished possessions were reduced to piles of rubbish awaiting disposal.

Council to question agencies over response to flooding

LISBURN City Council is to question representatives of Roads Service, Northern Ireland Water and the Rivers Agency about their response to the severe flooding caused by torrential rain on Saturday August 16.

It is also to urge the Executive to make flooding hardship payments available to traders as well as householders.

The first course of action was proposed at Tuesday evening's monthly meeting by Alderman Jeffrey Donaldson who felt there was a need to look at how the co-ordinated response of statutory authorities to flooding could be improved in the future.

The second was proposed by Councillor William Leathem who experienced the flooding of retail premises first hand in the Ballymacash area during the downpour.

Some of Mr. Donaldson's strongest criticism was reserved for the Planning Department who he accused of ignoring advice from councillors when considering applications to build homes in areas prone to flooding.


He said the Old Mill development at Culcavey and Stonebridge Meadows in Stoneyford were two examples of developments where planners had been told of the risk when considering the original applications.

Alderman Jim Dillon said he thought the council had been assured something would be done to alleviate flooding problems following previous deluges.

"Something has got to be done because this will happen again as sure as night follows day," he added. Councillor Thomas Beckett said there had been no co-ordination' with the council by the other agencies responsible for dealing with the flooding.

He pointed out county councils in the Republic were aware the flooding was going to happen and took measures to ensure their areas were as well prepared as possible.

He felt this type of forward planning based on weather forecasts should be more widespread especially in 'flooding hotspots.

Alderman Seamus Close asked why if this had happened before did it happen again.

"All sorts of promises were made about action to ensure this would not be repeated," he said referring to flash floods which occurred last summer. "There is no accountability whatsoever in this place. There is always someone else who can be blamed." Alderman Ivan Davis pointed out the same comments made in the council chamber on Tuesday evening had all been made before.

The Mayor Councillor Ronnie Crawford said he was concerned by reports household insurance companies were deducting the 1000 hardship payments made by the Executive from their customers' claims.

He said it was important the companies realised these were hardship payments.

Agriculture Minister pays visit to flooded farm

AGRICULTURAL and Rural Development Minister Michelle Gildernew saw for herself this week the damage caused to local farms during last week's floods.

During the visit to a farm close to Lisburn, the Minister was able to see the issues around the crop yields at a premises affected by the recent flooding.


Minister Michelle Gildernew views the effects of the recent flooding on crops at the farm of John Sloane near Lisburn.The Minister said: "Widespread flooding has caused great heartache and disruption to our farmers in recent days, and I want to reassure them that I am doing everything I can to help.

"I have tasked my officials to carry out an assessment of the difficulties facing farmers. I have also met with the Ulster Farmers Union to gain their appreciation of whether the flooding has any long term impact on the industry. I would intend to make my assessment available to my Executive colleagues, so that we can jointly consider the way forward.

In the meantime, I would encourage farmers whose homes have been flooded to avail of the emergency assistance from the Executive. This is intended to provide immediate practical relief, and to lift some of the worry which this extreme weather event has put on local householders."

Ulster Star