Newry flooding: Businessman tells of shock with three companies submerged by rising water

A Newry businessman has told of the shock at seeing three of his businesses underwater due to flooding caused by heavy rain.
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Brendan Downey is director of Friar Tucks chain of restaurants, one of which has been almost totally submerged by flooding in the city centre at Sugar Island.

He also owns the nearby Post Office and a potato chip factory - which are also under water.

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Police had warned that Newtown Road in Camlough; New Street and Canal Quay in Newry; Killowen Road in Rostrevor and Kilkeel Road in Newcastle had all been flooded overnight.

Brendan Downey, director of Friar Tucks restaurants, surveys the damage to one of his businesses - just behind him - caused by severe flooding in Newry.Brendan Downey, director of Friar Tucks restaurants, surveys the damage to one of his businesses - just behind him - caused by severe flooding in Newry.
Brendan Downey, director of Friar Tucks restaurants, surveys the damage to one of his businesses - just behind him - caused by severe flooding in Newry.

The PSNI warned drivers today to avoid Newry City Centre as it is experiencing “unprecedented levels of flooding” due to the canal bursting its banks overnight.

Dozens of businesses have been affected and Mr Downey says the same mood is spread throughout the business community.

"Stunned. Shock. We are still in shock," he told the News Letter.

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He does not recall such flooding in the area since the early 1970s.

"In the early 1970s the Clanrye River Burst its banks from the old wall," he told the News Letter.

"People think that the river is doing the harm - it is not - it is the canal that has overflowed."

He first became concerned about 10pm on Monday night.

"We were watching the river the whole day yesterday, we were afraid of the river bursting its banks but we didn't anticipate the canal coming round the corner on us. An army of people couldn't have stopped this."

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He initially tried to use sandbanks to protect the business.

"We have our own sandbags for small floods, which we never used before."

He was able to secure seven tonnes of sandbags to try and stop the flooding.

"But it was no good. An army wouldn't have sorted it out. It is a once in a lifetime flood."

He is hopeful his insurance will cover the damage.

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"Well that's the hope. I have made a phone call this morning which hasn't come back to me yet. But I'm hoping that certainly I have cover for this. If we don't we are in deep trouble."

"We will probably go to temporary premises somewhere."

"I'm sure the post office will be the first one to open up. Looking at this today it will take six months to get back.”

Over 40 employees are affected.

He has been speaking to his accountant to try and get wages paid this week. It is made more difficult by the fact that they can't access computers in the businesses.

"We want to retain our staff - we have good staff all trained up, we couldn't replace them," he added.

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There are concerns that a high tide this afternoon could cause even more flooding in streets so far unaffected.

Council workers were this morning piling sandbags up in front of the Town Hall in a bid to stop the canal from flooding down Hill Street, the main shopping area of the city.

Bemused local residents gathered in small crowds to witnesses the bizarre scenes while other businesses nearby sandbagged their shop fronts in a bid to protect from any further rise in the waters.

The News Letter asked Newry Mourne and Down District Council if opening canal gates might have lessened the impact of the flooding as some ratepayers suggested.

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A spokeswoman replied: “Newry, Mourne and Down District Council is coordinating the operation of the sluice gates at Victoria Lock in line with Rivers Agency advice and have been doing so throughout Monday night and will continue to do so throughout this emergency situation.

"The sluice gates are located within the lock infrastructure and are operated independently of the actual lock gates.”

Newry Courthouse has temporarily redirected its business to Craigavon from Wednesday 1 November 2023 due to flooding in the city.

Newry Magistrates Court is being moved to Craigavon Courthouse to allow for remedial works to take place and to make sure the staff and public are kept safe, the Department of Justice said.