DOWNPATRICK is embarking on the long road to recovery following the dramatic damage that was caused by rainfall last week, but they need support if they are to bounce back fully. With that in mind, the local traders in Downpatrick are coming together to demand that the government provides financial support to help them following the disastrous rainfall that destroyed thousands of pounds of stock.
The traders in the town met at the RGU Downpatrick Gaelic Club last night (Tuesday) to discuss their next steps forward now that the scale of the damage has been assessed. Brian Rogers, who is the owner of JJ Donnelly Menswear, on Market Street in Downpatrick, said that the traders are appealing for financial support. “We have had every politician from every party in here [to my premises]. We have told them all the same thing, we need money. “The message we are telling everyone is we need money and we need it now. “But in order to get money we have go to London.” Brian said that the politicians have told him that they are making inroads into doing so. “They are going to meet Chris HeatonHarris. But we want him to come here to see it for himself.”
They, like so many businesses in the town, are facing massive losses because of last week’s flooding. “We finally got into the shop on Saturday,” Brian said. “The water was five foot high. The stock of £120,000 has been ruined. It all has to be thrown out.” The stock has been removed and they are in the process of a clean-up operation, which involves trying to dry out the building. Yet he said that they, and so many other businesses, are determined to get back to trading as soon as possible, but they need financial support to do so. “We are looking to get it turned around in maybe two to three weeks. “There has been great support from the community. Everyone is united. “And we have had support from the likes of the Fire and Rescue Service and the likes of NIE.”
A number of the affected businesses took to social media to thank the public for their support. Murphy’s Bar in Downpatrick made this statement online: ‘We would like to thank everyone who came down today to help us with cleaning, clearing and moving water. “We couldn’t have done it without you all. We will never forget the local community support that has been shown during these difficult times. ‘We have a long way to go but with your support we will do it with a smile.’ The Avenue Bar in Downpatrick posted this: ‘Needless to say Avenue Bar Downpatrick is closed for the foreseeable future. Many thanks to customers, Roads Service, Council and all others who have helped us and all other local businesses affected so far’.
The town’s public transport services were also significantly affected by the flooding. A Translink spokesperson said: “Our team has worked hard to keep services operating in Downpatrick during the flood and clean-up operation. “As the bus station was affected by the flooding, fleet was brought in from other depots and stored off site, to keep services running. “Our full timetable from Downpatrick has now resumed, including school services, however, as Market Street remains closed due to the clean-up operation, some stops have been adjusted. “Services to Belfast, Ballynahinch, Killyleagh and Strangford are leaving from Church Street. “Buses to Newry, Castlewellan, Newcastle, Ballyhornan, Ardglass, Ballykinlar, Killough and Downpatrick Town services are leaving from St Patrick’s Avenue (opposite Molloys). “We thank our passengers for their patience and support during the unprecedented incident.” The Department for Infrastructure made a series of statements at the weekend about the work that has been undertaken to clear the streets in Downpatrick.
On Saturday, the department said that water levels in the Quoile River had fallen to a point that enabled some pumping of floodwaters to commence on Friday night in Downpatrick. The NI Fire and Rescue Service’s pumping operation worked overnight to remove floodwater from the centre of the County Town. This complex operation saw the deployment of two high volume pumps, moving in excess of 7,500 litres per minute, using twin six-inch hoses to the discharge point into the Quoile River at the Belfast Road Bridge, almost a mile away. Market Street and other roads in the area were closed to facilitate the pumping main. By late Saturday, the Department for Infrastructure said the pumping had ceased. They said floodwater within the centre of the town had been successfully removed from Market Street. Council staff were deployed as part of the collaborative effort involving multiple agencies, and a substantial clean-up to restore public access to the town centre began. Council employees supported local businesses and initiated clean-up tasks, including the operation of road sweepers and the clearance of drainage gullies.
On Monday, there were efforts to remove sandbags from the streets and commence power washing operations. A spokesperson for South Eastern Regional College (SERC) explained that thankfully its Downpatrick campus had not been damaged by floodwater. “The flooding in Downpatrick occurred when students and many staff were on half-term break, so there was no initial impact on classes,” the spokesperson added. “The campus itself was fortunately not damaged at all and our thoughts are with those in the local community who have been impacted by the situation. “We are exploring how we can support businesses to get back on their feet, possibly through providing temporary office accommodation. “Since Covid, SERC has had systems in place to move classes online, which we put into action for Downpatrick students when access to the building was restricted on Monday 6 November. “Classes returned to the campus on Tuesday.”