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Flooding in Andersonstown and Falls

Part of Adjournment – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:15 pm on 19th May 2009.

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Photo of Paul Maskey Paul Maskey Sinn Féin 3:15 pm, 19th May 2009

Thank you, a LeasCheann Comhairle, agus go raibh maith agat fosta, a Jennifer. There are many issues and that is why we called for the investigation into how the problems occurred. The Department for Regional Development has carried out some investigations. From a very early stage, among our priorities was making sure that lessons are learned from that incident because it must not be allowed to be repeated.

Mr Attwood mentioned the Rivers Agency on a number of occasions. After the source of the flooding was identified, most of the responsibility for sorting it out lay with that agency. We called for the agency to make it a paramount priority in its work scheme to ensure that the necessary work was urgently carried out after the surveys.

I regret that individuals in the Rivers Agency told us that the situation would be sorted out as a matter of urgency. Some of the correspondence that I received from the Rivers Agency stated that the matter would be given high priority, and, at that stage, I was told that it was hoped that the work would be carried out by mid-February. I sent a letter to the Rivers Agency in which I welcomed that development and said that I hoped that the work would be done. I also said that, if they encountered any problems that would prevent them from resolving the matter by mid-February, I would try, in my role as an elected representative for West Belfast, to assist them in overruling any difficulties. However, I was left in no doubt that the Rivers Agency was still hopeful that the work would be carried out by mid-February.

After speaking to residents who informed me that the work had not been carried out by March, April or even May, I phoned the Rivers Agency. Indeed, the work has not been carried out as yet. I ask the Minister for Regional Development to take that forward to the Executive, particularly to the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, given that the Rivers Agency falls within her remit. I have raised this issue to ensure that that happens, and we have received correspondence saying that it is hoped that the work will be done in the near future. Since the Minister for Regional Development is in the Chamber, as Alex Attwood said, it would be remiss of Members not to take the opportunity to urge him to raise with the Minister of the Environment some of the issues that have been mentioned.

Through talking to people, we see that they are upset greatly by what happened, and we must ensure that the effects of any future heavy rainfall are reduced. Nobody could have accounted for the rainfall of somewhere over 60 mm that fell that night. According to different forecasts, the rainfall was higher, but we cannot say that there will not be such heavy rainfall again. It is hoped that it will not rain so heavily again, but all efforts must be made to ensure that such flooding does not happen again. We must pull out all the stops to ensure that the required work is carried out.

People’s kitchens and homes were devastated. Council representatives went into the local leisure centres and assisted people. That may or may not have been good enough. I know that the Minister for Regional Development, along with the Minister of the Environment, was on site in parts of west Belfast a few days after the heavy rain; in fact, it might have been the day after the rainfall. People came out and tried to help.

I visited some houses, and I saw that the heavy rain was coming in through the roof and that water was coming down walls and into fuse boxes. I mentioned the Housing Executive earlier, because I was in a house in Lenadoon, which is not far from the Andersonstown area. A subcontractor from the Housing Executive had fitted a new fuse box recently in that house, and there was silver paper around a fuse that had blown at some stage. That put someone’s life at risk. That example demonstrates that dealing with the effects of the floods is the responsibility of many Departments.

I have written to the Department for Regional Development again regarding some parts of the drainage system in Kennedy Way in the Andersonstown area. I have been rapping people’s doors recently, and they have been telling me that it has been a while since the drainage system has been cleared. I would like to think that Roads Service can and should check the drainage system more regularly, because, as has been said, a lot of new developments have been built recently in west Belfast, and, by the look of things, a lot more will be built in the future. Checks should be made to see whether the infrastructure is in place to allow that to happen. As well as that, the drainage system should be checked regularly.