AGRICULTURE, Environment and Rural Affairs Minister Edwin Poots has visited a farming business in the Owenkillew river valley at the invitation of the UFU to discuss the ongoing impacts of the August 2017 flooding in the area and subsequent land slippage.
Mr Poots said: “I welcome the opportunity to visit the area to meet with a local farmer impacted by the flooding in 2017 and to learn about the challenges faced by those directly affected. I have seen the impact of landslides and erosion caused by the heavy rain, and heard about the work required to restore land back to productivity. I am considering requests for financial assistance and plan to make an announcement in the near future.”
Following the flooding a number of measures have been taken by DAERA to assist those affected, including £500,000 funding for the Loughs Agency to carry out remedial fencing works in the worst affected areas and a range of farm advisory and practical support measures.
Sinn Fein’s Declan McAleer says that he is hopeful that the Sperrin farmers may at last get much needed financial assistance following the visit by Mr Poots.
The West Tyrone MLA, who has been to the fore in the battle to secure compensation for the farmers affected, said: “I have been relentlessly raising the issue with the DEARA Minister and department since this devastating natural disaster happened.
“Having spent the afternoon with the Agriculture Minister and UFU on a farm impacted by the severe flood of 2017, and after he saw and heard at first hand the plight of those affected, I am hopeful that they may at last receive the financial assistance to compensate for their devastating losses.
“I therefore welcome the pronouncement by the Minister today that he is considering requests for financial assistance and that he plans to make an announcement in the near future.
“I trust that the Minister will conclude his deliberations and make a positive announcement at the earliest opportunity.”
UFU president Victor Chestnutt said: “We are fast approaching four years since the devastating floods in the Glenelly and Owenkillew valley and surrounding areas. It’s an injustice that these farmers, whose land was flooded and endured the devastating impact of landslides and erosions caused by the heavy rainfall that takes place once in a 3,000 year occurrence, did not receive any support to help them restore their land for agricultural use. Simply because there was no government at the time.
“I appreciate Minister Poots and Declan McAleer, MLA, for taking the time to visit local farmer Drew Fleming and farmer representatives to learn of the challenges he and other farmers affected in the area have been dealing with since the flooding took place.
“The Minister has assured us that he is now considering requests for financial assistance and has plans to make an announcement on this matter in the future. I urge him to do this as soon as possible as the flooding victims have been left in limbo for far too long. I am delighted that progress is finally being made.”