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Flood-hit firms in Newry and Downpatrick to get emergency cash next week

Floodwater outside Joseph Magee's pub in Newry
Pubs, shops and other businesses were badly damaged by flooding in Newry last week

Emergency funding will be paid next Monday to businesses badly affected by flooding in County Down last week.

Torrential rain led to days of deep flooding in Newry and Downpatrick, forcing water through the doors of dozens of premises and ruining stock.

The UK government pledged £15m to help flood-hit firms in Northern Ireland to cover the clean-up and resume trading.

But some have criticised the amount on offer, with one trade body saying that about £37m is needed for Newry alone.

Newry, Mourne and Down District Council said grants of £7,500 would be given to the affected business from next Monday as part of the government package.

Deep floodwater outside business premises on Downpatrick's main shopping street
Downpatrick's main shopping street was under floodwater last week, leaving dozens of premises ruined

They will also not have to pay business rates until the end of March.

Stormont's Department of Finance has said that more support will be available although it is not clear how much will be on offer or when it will be available.

Northern Ireland Office Minister Lord Caine was in Downpatrick on Thursday to "talk to people, to listen and take on board their concerns".

His visit was in contrast to one by Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris on Wednesday when some traders were angry that he did not speak to them.

Defending his fellow minister, Lord Caine said: "My understanding is that [Mr Heaton-Harris] did meet some traders here as well but his time was necessarily limited yesterday."

Analysis box by Gareth Gordon, NI political correspondent
Analysis box by Gareth Gordon, NI political correspondent

What a difference a day makes.

On Wednesday Chris Heaton-Harris was ushered out through a back door after some flood-hit businesspeople became angry during a visit to Downpatrick.

Today the number three at the Northern Ireland Office, Lord Caine, was there for a very different occasion.

This was the visit the flood victims had wanted 24 hours earlier.

Flanked by local politicians and community representatives, he first went to the St Patrick's Centre, the building Mr Heaton-Harris hastily left after meeting South Down MP Chris Hazzard.

Then he walked the few hundred yards to the County Down Railway which had been badly flooded last week.

Lord Caine listens to County Down Railway chairman Robert Gardiner about the damaged caused by the flooding in Downpatrick last week
County Down Railway chairman Robert Gardiner told Lord Caine of the damage the flood had caused

Lord Caine saw the damage for himself and heard that the popular Lapland Express due to begin in two weeks for Christmas was still in jeopardy.

Next it was the Grove Shopping Centre where it is feared some of the stores may never reopen.

Then possibly the most significant visit, to the bar owned by Bartley Murphy who featured in the angriest scenes during the visit by Mr Heaton-Harris.

Lord Caine was shown around the damaged pub by Mr Murphy who said he was very welcome, as would his political boss be if he returned to Downpatrick.

As for whether that would happen, Lord Caine couldn't say as he would never discuss his diary publicly.

But there's no doubt this visit has begun to repair the bad feelings caused by that very different one the previous day.

Brendan Teggart, who owns a cafe in the town, said the cost of fixing his premises would be "in excess of £100,000".

"All our electrical equipment has been totally destroyed, our seating has gone and all of the other sundries, food, etc, has all had to go in the skip," he said.

Darren Kearney and Brendan Teggart outside their cafe Oakley Fayre in Downpatrick after it was flooded last week
Brendan Teggart and his son Darren Kearney have been clearing up the mess and damage the flood caused to their cafe

Elsewhere in the town, the Teggart and Sons hardware shop had been "completely ruined with the water", said owner Shelley Teggart.

"We've removed all the stock and basically put it into four skips and... we've removed all the fixtures and fittings and they were all a bin job," she said.

"To be honest, the figure that they said that we're getting is an insult because it won't even pay for fixtures and fittings.

"We need more money and we need it fast - that interim payment won't even scratch the surface."