Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has refuted claims that he was late in visiting the Carndonagh region of Donegal, which was devastated by flooding this week.
The Fine Gael leader said he did not think it was “relevant” that it took him three days to arrive in Donegal.
“I am here and very many Government ministers have been here already,” he said. “I don’t think there has been any shortage of Government interest in this issue, I think half the Cabinet have been in Inishowen so I think the most important thing is the Government response and I think the response from Government is going to be very strong in providing any assistance that is needed.
“I can assure you that the response from the agencies did not start from today or from this morning but happened straight away.”
Mr Varadkar’s first stop was in the town of Carndonagh, which was one of the worst-hit areas during the torrential downpours.
On the outskirts of the town in the townland of Glack, the Taoiseach met with farmer Phil Doherty and his family.
Mr Doherty said: “We were lucky enough in that our house was not damaged but a lot of the fields were badly hit and the river beside the home burst its banks and will need to be repaired.”
The Taoiseach replied: “It’s terrible but I’m just happy that nobody was killed or injured.”
Through the town, the Taoiseach, who was accompanied by Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty, met business owners whose premises were damaged by the floods.
Among them was Sarah Quigley-Burns, who owns the Little Acorns creche in the town.
Ms Quigley-Burns has 104 children enrolled at the creche, which was devastated by the flooding.
She explained to the Taoiseach how she wanted to open next Wednesday but may be subject to inspection by Tusla.
She stressed that she was always compliant with all regulations but just needed some help to put her creche back in order.
“I understand that the services are stretched and that people whose homes have been damaged should be sorted first,” she said.
“But we would appreciate any help we can get. I would dearly love another humidifier. That would be a big help.”
Local Government Minister Eoghan Murphy summoned council staff and asked them to provide Ms Quigley-Burns with a humidifier.
In the Good as New charity shop across the courtyard, Mary Farren described how two tractor-loads of donated clothes and other goods had to be taken away.
Ms Farren and her staff run the charity shop to raise funds for the local Catholic Church.
“I am delighted that the Taoiseach has come to Inishowen so at least he can see first-hand what we are going through,” she said.
“I arrived here on Wednesday and we just had to dump out so much of our stock. It was ruined but people have been so good and they have been dropping off stuff again to us.”
Mr Varadkar pointed to the floor, where there were several plastic bags containing potatoes, asking if they were for sale. He was told they were and that they were €3 a bag, at which Minister Regina Doherty produced money and bought a bag.
In McCurdy’s Cafe, owner Charlie McCurdy said he could not afford to remain closed to repair his business premises completely.
“I opened here at Easter and I have put everything I have into this business,” he said. “I work seven days a week.
“I am now battling with my insurance company to see if I am covered.
“What the banks and the insurance companies have got away with in this country is immoral, I tell you.”
After meeting business owners, the Taoiseach visited a nearby housing estate which was also damaged by the heavy floods.
From there, he headed to Buncrana, where he was briefed by local councillors as well as chief executive officer of Donegal County Council, Seamus Neely.
As the Taoiseach toured the peninsula, the first of the influx of army personnel from the 28th battalion at Finner Camp arrived in Inishowen.
A total of 30 soldiers arrived yesterday to assist residents, with a promise that more will follow.
The soldiers were divided into different groups to assist in Burnfoot, Buncrana, Clonmany, and Carndonagh.
In one of the worst-hit areas on the Lios na Greine estate, four soldiers spent the morning filling skips with damaged property which could not be salvaged.
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