British Army engineers should be drafted in to help rebuild flood affected bridges - Councillor

Thursday, 7 September 2017

A STRABANE councillor says he believes engineers within the British Army should be drafted in to help with the rebuilding of key bridges and routes in the rural areas which have collapsed due to the devastating flooding in the Sperrins.

Independent Derry City and Strabane District Council member, Patsy Kelly, says the expertise of personnel in the army should be utilised in a similar vein to those in the Republic of Ireland where members of the Defence Force have been central in reconnecting communities in the Inishowen Peninsula.

A number of key bridges in the area were damaged, some beyond repair, and a convoy of engineers from the army have worked to install a Bailey bridge between Carndonagh and Quigley's Point.

A similar call was made by Ulster Unionist Party councillor, Alderman Derek Hussey, at an emergency meeting of the authority held in the aftermath of the unprecedented flooding, which has caused widespread devastation in the North West, not least Glenelly Valley where roads remain closed and bridges have collapsed.

Mr Hussey said consideration should be given to asking for specialist army assistance here, such as the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME). Patsy Kelly is supportive of the call.

"There are still one or two major bridges down in our rural areas and roads remain closed. People face taking long detours and it could be months before they are fixed by the authorities here," he said. "In the meantime it is our rural communities who are affected.

"If you look at Donegal, the army have come in and restored the daily bridges. It is the same anywhere else around the world where there has been major disasters, army engineers are always tasked in. Is there a need for something like that here to put the infrastructure and these bridges in place for our local rural communities rather than sitting back and waiting for Roads Service to come up with something?

"We need something done as quickly as possible. It is the engineers within the army, not soldiers patrolling the streets. You see it in England and Scotland. If we don't call in this type of expertise, we are going to be sitting with rural communities very isolated for months and possibly years."

Cllr Kelly has also challenged Northern Ireland Secretary of State (SOS), James Brokenshire's failure to visit flood hit areas. "Leo Varadkar (Taoiseach) has visited Carndonagh. We have no ministers at present in Stormont. Why has James Brokenshire, the Northern Ireland minister, not come to the North West to see the devastation? He needs to step in.

"He could give the go ahead for more money to come in from central government to help these areas within the Derry and Strabane Council area where there is major work to be done. We need help and assistance on the ground and it is needed as soon as possible, " said Mr Kelly.

"If this was in any other part of the UK, there would have been millions of pounds thrown at it. We pay our taxes as well in this part of the world so we should be entitled to the same level of assistance," he added.


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