'We need help': festive cheer in short supply for those hit by flooding in Northern Ireland

Seven weeks on from some of the worst flooding to hit Northern Ireland in years, businesses and homeowners are still counting the cost of the damage caused.

At the beginning of November, Portadown, Downpatrick and Newry became the latest areas to fall victim to flooding.

Family homes for decades were destroyed, particularly in Portadown.

Julie Richardson shares her home with her husband, Nigel. As the flood waters rose back in November, Nigel showed UTV around his house. The water was nearly up to his knees.

More than a month later, the downstairs of their home has been completely gutted - leaving bare walls and no furniture.

"We lost everything," Julie said.

"The only things we saved were my grandson's toys, his photographs and six dining room chairs.

"We were very lucky we got a house in Portadown, but my neighbours - they're way out of town because there were no rental properties in the town at all.

"It took quite a while for that to sink in, the enormity of what you've lost."

Julie told UTV that she hoped to be back in her Ripley Mews home within the next six months.

Large retailers as well as small, independent businesses suffered too.

Now, in what should be one of the busiest times of the year for trade, there is a serious drop in footfall.

Ciara Douglas owns a dress shop which was located just off Downpatrick's main thoroughfare, Market Street.

Her shop was completely swamped with flood water, leaving her with a team of volunteers scrambling to save customers' communion dresses.

She managed to save every single one.

However, she has now set up a store on Scotch Street a short distance away - but Ciara says having to move has been devastating.

"I may as well be a shop in Dubai, as being a shop in Downpatrick, and that's being honest," she said.

"The footfall has diminished completely."

"We were to do pyjamas this year but that had to be cancelled," Ciara added.

"Where I would be lifting a couple of hundred pounds possibly every day, we're not lifting anything at all."

Asda says it will open a new pop-up store on the grounds of the car park at its Downpatrick store.

Business owners say the closure of the supermarket retailer has had a major effect on the number of people coming into the town.

Bartley Murphy, who owns Murphy's pub on Market Street, says his usual Christmas trade has been disrupted.

"We need help and we don't want to be the forgotten town, we don't want to be yesterday's news," he said.

Bartley added that he doesn't want businesses to be left "high and dry' now that the water has gone.

Ailish Teague runs Pop Up Art, a mental health support group and outlet for people struggling through the cost-of-living crisis.

It had to close due to the flooding leaving many vulnerable people with nowhere to go.

UTV joined them as they celebrated reopening over a Christmas lunch.

"We rely on the income of our charity shop and our cafe to help fund this project," said Ailish.

"Without the income from the cafe, without the income from the shop, we're finding it very difficult to plan for the future.

"We're very, very busy at the moment. People find Christmas a very, very difficult time of year. Everybody expects it to be like the movies, like the Christmas adverts - but it's far removed from that."

Businesses in Newry are also counting the cost, as towns and cities deal with the aftermath.

A £15m recovery package, which included a one-off payment of £7,500 - was announced in the days after the flooding.

Newry, Mourne and Down District Council distributed that cheque. They now say a second allocation of funding now requires sign-off by the Treasury.

It may be beginning to look a lot like Christmas but it will be a very different one for many.

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