Newry business in flood payment fury

​Loretta Gallagher, owner of Lorsha Design.​Loretta Gallagher, owner of Lorsha Design.
​Loretta Gallagher, owner of Lorsha Design.
​A Newry business owner has said she is prepared to take the council to court over its “mishandling” of a flood relief payment.

​Loretta Gallagher, owner of independent textiles business Lorsha Design, has been ordered to pay back a £7,500 grant to Newry, Mourne and Down District Council, after her business was deemed to be “unaffected” by major flooding last year.

The U-turn has faced much criticism from politicians, business owners and the wider community in recent days.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Operating from the first and second floors of 7 Sugarhouse Quay, the 200-year-old building has been out of action since late October, when the bottom floor housing Synge & Byrne cafe became submerged in water.

The flooding caused extreme damage to the building, effectively blocking the only entrance, making it inaccessible to both businesses.

Ms Gallagher applied for the one-off grant payment late last year, which was part of the Government's support measures administered by local councils.

However, she has now been notified that her “business did not meet the criteria”, and the payment had “been made in error”, and should be returned.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Ms Gallagher strongly disputes the decision and said she received assurances from the council that her business did qualify for the scheme.

“My business was in the deepest area of the flooding, with water gushing into the bottom floor.

​“There were very visible signs of damp, and evidence of destroyed stock.”

Lorsha Design has not traded in the five months since the flood, as works are ongoing to repair damage to the ground floor.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Ms Gallagher set up her business more than 30 years ago, but fears her business won't survive with the added pressure of returning the one-off flood payment.

She said: “This disaster has taken place in the busiest quarter of the year.

“If I am not affected, which is what the council is telling me, from the 31st of October and onwards, I should have been able to put my key in the door, open it, and allow customers to access my shop.

“Work is ongoing every day, but even if I could allow customers in, it would be a health and safety hazard.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“I’m having to turn people away, which has a huge financial impact.”

Loretta has been working tirelessly to rebuild her business and said she will do everything she can to reopen in the near future, but she is unsure if she will be able to avail of future flood-related funding.

Eamonn Connolly from Newry BID has been supporting Loretta and other businesses still in recovery mode.

He said: “This mistake by the council is just madness. Someone needs to accept accountability for this mistake.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“It is morally wrong to ask for the money back and just adds insult to injury.

“We are actively pursuing an equitable solution and will continue to stand with Loretta and other businesses impacted by the devastating floods.”

A Newry, Mourne and Down Council spokesperson said they do not comment “on matters relating to individual business applications”.

Related topics: