Northern Ireland

Flooding: no engineering solution to Fermanagh floods

Storm Desmond caused severe flooding across County Fermanagh
Image caption Storm Desmond caused severe flooding across County Fermanagh

The minister for agriculture says there is no engineering solution to flooding in County Fermanagh.

At least 20 roads in the county have been closed in the wake of Storm Desmond at the weekend.

Michelle O'Neill said the problem is one that the local community "will have to deal with time and time again".

Further flooding is possible as heavy rain continues to raise water levels at Upper Lough Erne, the Rivers Agency has warned.

The minister rebutted criticism that it has taken her five days to visit the county and review the damage.

Image caption Agriculture minister Michelle O'Neill says there is no engineering solution to flooding

"I think people would prefer to see that the work is done rather than me coming down to get my picture taken," she said.

"For me, the priority has been to ensure that my agencies played their role and the Rivers Agency have done tremendous work on the ground.

"After any big flooding incident, you have a review of the situation and I'm sure that Transport NI will have a look at what has failed in the last week and what can be done in the future.

"One of the things the task force in 2009 highlighted was that there isn't an engineering solution to the problem in the lough.

"It's going to be a long-running problem. It's going to be here forever and a day, so what we need to do is make sure we tackle the issues when we can with things like raising roads and pumping stations."

Image caption Over 20 roads have been closed in County Fermanagh this week

Mrs O'Neill said she could understand the frustration of the local community.

"They have a right to be frustrated - I would be frustrated if I faced the challenges that some of the people in rural Fermanagh face.

"But to put it in context, over 110mm of water fell in one day in Fermanagh. That's the monthly average in one day. So that shows why there are significant problems this week.

Image caption Floodwaters continue to rise slowly, closing the new Riverside Promenade between the Lakeland Forum and Enniskilen Castle

She commended staff who had been "working around the clock" to ensure roads could be opened so that the community had access to vital services.

"I think everybody understands the nature of the lough and the problems it poses for the people of Fermanagh," she said.

"But I think what's important is that all the agencies work together and that has very much been evident this week."

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