Ulster Unionist MP Tom Elliott has criticised the out-going Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill after it was confirmed that the Northern Ireland Executive had not engaged with the UK Government in relation to the UK’s application to the EU Solidarity Fund to assist communities affected by flooding.
Commenting Mr Elliott said: “The severe flooding in recent months hit farms, homes, businesses and communities right across Northern Ireland and in many cases the impact of the flood water will be felt for a long time to come.
“The EU Solidarity Fund was set up to help Member States affected by natural disasters and the UK Government made an initial application on 26 February due to the widespread impact of the flooding. I am led to believe that the assessment of the application continues - if the application is successful it will be up to the UK Government to decide how to allocate the money across the UK.
“I recently tabled a number of questions to the Department for Communities and Local Government, the department responsible for the application, for a progress report and to ascertain if plans were in place to make funds available to the Northern Ireland Executive. The response I have received in the past few days from James Wharton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, confirms that the Northern Ireland Executive had not approached the Government ‘at the date the application was made’.”
The Fermanagh & South Tyrone MP added: “Given the financial impact of the flooding, particularly on farm businesses, plus the pressure on public funds at this time surely identifying all potential sources of funding to assist those hit by funding would by a priority?
“To not even approach relevant counterparts in the Government to ascertain if and how Northern Ireland could benefit from the EU Solidarity Fund as the UK’s application was being prepared is a damning indictment of the outgoing Agriculture Minister, Michelle O’Neill. I hope that Northern Ireland has not lost out as a result of this inaction.”