Flood-hit farmers still waiting for financial help

A PLUMBRIDGE hill farmer who sustained substantial damage to his property in the freak flooding that hit the North West last year has spoken of his anger after a £1 million emergency fund was released for traders in Belfast city centre affected by the Primark fire while he is yet to receive a penny. 
Dermot O’Brien, who keeps beef cattle and sheep, claimed that, on average, between £15,000 to £20,000 worth of damage had been caused to local farms by the flooding in August last year. 
Despite receiving widespread support from West Tyrone’s MLAs and the North’s three MEPs, Mr O’Brien said that the farmers had yet to receive any money from the government to help with the cost of repairs. 
Describing the situation as “heartbreaking”, the Plumbridge man said it was frustrating to hear that a £1.1 million emergency fund had been provided for Belfast city centre. 
Mr O’Brien said, “We’re marginalised here. It’s typical when you’re west of the Bann, you’re ignored.  Somebody said to us that it didn’t happen to enough people.” 
But he added that farmers across the border in Donegal who were also affected by the flooding had been able to avail of EU money. 
Around 16 months on from the flooding and with a lot of farmers having already carried out the repair work, Mr O’Brien does not expect any money to be forthcoming on this side of the border. 
“I can’t see the government compensating us once the work is done. They’re very angry up around this neck of the woods,” he said. 
Meanwhile, West Tyrone MLA, Daniel McCrossan, said that the victims of flooding in rural Tyrone deserve “equality of treatment”. 
Mr McCrossan said he has written to Denis McMahon, the Permanent 
Secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), urging intervention. 
He said, “In August last year, parts of our rural community were devastated by flooding which has left many people in a severe economic position. 
“I met with the Permanent Secretary after the flood and recently again this autumn where I was told an emergency fund was not possible due to having no Executive. 
“Yet, in Belfast, civil servants were able to release a £1.1 million emergency fund following the Primark fire. 
“The Primark fire devastated Belfast’s local economy and equally, the flooding in the North West has devastated the rural community there. Families, especially those from an agricultural background, have found it impossible to get back on their feet. They still need immediate financial assistance. 
“I am now calling on the Permanent Secretary of DAERA to, 16 months later, release an emergency funding package for all the people and businesses impacted by the August 2017 flooding. Civil servants now have to power to do this and cannot hide behind the fact we have no Executive in place.” 

The Strabane Chronicle is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. 15 Main Street, Strabane, Co. Tyrone, Northern Ireland, BT82 8AS