‘Unprecedented’ flooding hits several counties ahead of Storm Ciarán

Newry under water after canal breaks its banks, while businesses and homes in Carlingford also reported damage to premises following flooding


Further homes and businesses across a number of counties were on Tuesday grappling with significant damage caused by “unprecedented” flooding after incessant rain, as the threat of more heavy showers in coming days loomed.

Newry in Co Down was under water after the city’s canal broke its banks on Monday night, with several streets in the city centre left flooded on Tuesday. Eamonn Connolly, manager of Newry Business Improvement District Organisation, likened parts of Newry to a “lake”. “It’s certainly been unprecedented,” he said.

An estimated 80 businesses in the area have been affected by the flooding.

Many roads remain closed and public transport has been disrupted after more rain fell on already saturated ground on Tuesday night.


Counties Armagh and Down are braced for the impact of further rain as Storm Ciarán arrives on Thursday, though a yellow warning for rain that was in place has been removed.

The North’s Department of Infrastructure said on Wednesday more than 12,000 sandbags were deployed to the worst-affected areas, particularly in Newry and the southeast of Northern Ireland, where “rain intensity, high tides and saturated ground has caused the flooding”.

About 900 calls have been made to the North’s Flooding Incident Line in recent days.

The department said “river and lough levels continue to be monitored as levels rise” and has urged people to “stay away from flood defences, flooded areas and watercourses as these areas may be unsafe until an assessment of the damage caused by the heavy rain can be made”.

“Flooding may have extensive and significant impacts on health and wellbeing, therefore we appeal to people to avoid flood water to minimise any risks to life.”

The body also appealed to people to pay attention to road closure advice, saying “many roads are closed because of flood conditions which are not suitable for traffic to go through.” A full list of road closures is available on trafficwatchni.com.

Businesses and homes in Carlingford, Co Louth, also reported damage to premises following flooding, and a bridge outside Riverstown collapsed amid rising water on the Cooley peninsula.

Houses in Dundalk were also impacted.

Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys said a humanitarian assistance scheme for flood-hit households would be extended to people living in counties Louth and Wexford, as parts of the country prepare for Storm Ciarán.

In Banbridge, Co Down, the Police Service of Northern Ireland warned on Tuesday afternoon that the level of the river Bann had risen “dangerously high”.

Travel between Dublin and Belfast was disrupted on account of flooding in the northeast, with the main motorway between the cities closed for a period on Tuesday. Train services were also affected.

The latest floods came as residents in the Haven housing estate in Rosslare, Co Wexford, tried to mop up after some were left in 3ft of water on Monday, and just weeks after areas of the southwest including Midleton, Co Cork, were inundated by floodwaters. Local Coast Guard volunteer Alan Duggan said the water in Rosslare was up to his waist.

“There are about 35 to 40 houses in the Haven and around 15 of them are flooded,” he said.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said flooding was becoming more frequent and severe. He said support schemes have been activated and were there to be used.

He added: “We do expect business owners and homeowners to have insurance. But where people can’t get insurance through no fault of their own, that’s where the Government steps in.”

The humanitarian assistance scheme is available from a €13 million fund and the income limits for the scheme have recently been increased from €30,000 to €50,000 for a single person and from €50,000 to €90,000 for a couple.

Businesses in the two counties whose premises have been damaged are also likely to see separate support schemes extended to them, with a Government decision possible as early as Thursday.

Separate business supports were announced after the damage inflicted by Storm Babet last month.

Newry business owner Paul McCartan, who runs McCartan Bros clothes shop on Sugar Island with his brother, said flooding had left his livelihood in an “absolute mess”, with stock “saturated” by 3ft of water.

“I came up this morning hoping the waters would be lower, and if anything they were far higher. I needed to get in, I have stock in there, it’s my livelihood and unfortunately the inside of the shop is an absolute mess.

“We’re just going to have to see where we go from here, it’s a bit of a nightmare coming into Christmas,” he said. “I don’t know when I’ll be able to reopen again.”

Gary Quinn from the Rivers Agency said they have placed a large number of sandbags in Newry.

“We have a focus on Portadown, we have a focus on Banbridge. The Bann river level is rising, but there are numerous towns and villages where we have had to respond to some more local type impacts,” he told the BBC.

“But our main focus is on Newry and Portadown.”

Newry courthouse has been temporarily closed with business moved to Craigavon. The Department of Justice said the measure was to allow for remedial works to take place and to make sure the staff and public are kept safe.

In Co Louth, publican Frankie McGrory praised local community spirit after his bar flooded with up to eight inches of water. The owner of Lumpers Bar near Ravensdale said water was coming down the road “like a river from the mountain” and nearby houses had also been flooded.

With Storm Ciarán due to make landfall later on Wednesday, several rain and wind warnings were issued by Met Éireann.

Meteorologist Linda Hughes said the south and east of the country may experience “intense falls of rain” on Wednesday, and the southwest of the country was most at risk of flooding. The storm will track south, with the brunt of the weather pattern to be felt in the UK and France.

A status-yellow rain warning for Co Kerry will be in effect until 12pm on Wednesday.

Status-yellow warnings for rain will come into effect for counties Carlow, Kilkenny, Wexford, Wicklow, Cork and Waterford from 7pm on Wednesday. The warning will last until 7am on Thursday.

In addition there was a status-yellow wind warning for Clare, Kerry and Galway on Wednesday morning, until 11am, which Met Éireann said could cause difficult travelling conditions.

The Met Office also issued a warning for Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Tyrone and Derry and warned that another period of heavy rain is likely to bring some flooding and transport disruption across Northern Ireland on Wednesday morning.

Fiachra Gallagher

Fiachra Gallagher

Fiachra Gallagher is an Irish Times journalist

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien is an Irish Times journalist

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times

Freya McClements

Freya McClements

Freya McClements is Northern Editor of The Irish Times