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Go raibh maith agat, a LeasCheann Comhairle. I thank the Member for bringing the debate to the Floor. I concur with what he said. As someone who lives in that area, I know well the consequences of what was faced on 16 August 2008. That day, I was stuck in my car for about two and a half hours due to the underpass being flooded and the diversion that was in place around Belfast. When we managed to get home, I made a record of the number of phone calls that I received and made that evening: there were around 50 or 60, many from residents who had phoned me, and I phoned them back or contacted the Departments.
I agree with Alex Attwood that the issue of flooding is relevant not only to the Department for Regional Development but to other Departments. That evening, I contacted the Roads Service, the Rivers Agency, which is an agency within the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, and the Housing Executive, which is the responsibility of the Department for Social Development. I also contacted Belfast City Council and many other bodies that evening. The last phone calls that I took and made were around 11.30 pm. That was after being out in some of the affected areas, where I saw at first hand the state in which places were left after the heavy downpour that occurred that evening.
We spoke to people about the flooding of their homes. Glenhill took the brunt of that because the Blackstaff River burst. When we went there and inspected the area outside people’s homes, we saw that manholes had blown off and water was going 20 ft or 30 ft into the air, which destroyed many homes in the area. The extent of the damage could still be seen days afterwards. People have only recently returned to some of those houses.
The issue of insurance companies has been raised. If there is anything that the Assembly can do, it is to put pressure on insurance companies to step up to the mark. Many of the people who have been affected will not be able to insure their homes again, and there are still delays with some payments, not only in Glenhill but in many other areas of west Belfast and, I am sure, throughout the North of Ireland.
I have copies of correspondence from 18 August 2008, which was the Monday following the flood. Those are letters from my office to the various Departments, stating clearly that we want to get the issue resolved. On 18 August, we called for a full investigation into why the flooding occurred and how it was allowed to happen again after it had happened in previous years. That put the marker down to the Departments that we wanted a full investigation to be carried out because we did not want to see anything similar again.