THE bulk of an €80,000 fund set up to help victims of the devastating floods on Limerick’s King’s Island has remained unspent 10 months after the disaster.
And the committee set up to administer the fund - which came from donations from the public across the country - has not met since August, the Limerick Leader can reveal.
Residents have been left furious at the impasse and one of the members of the funding committee, Linda Ledger, says the St Munchin’s Community Centre directors now feel like they want to bypass the group, and give out the €23,000 they hold themselves.
Following February’s disaster, various funds were put in place, with one oversight committee established to determine where the donations - which came from Tesco and Lloyd’s Pharmacy among others - should go to.
Various bodies control different chunks of the funding, with St Mary’s AID holding €17,000, the St Munchin’s Community Centre €23,000, and the remainder split between St Vincent de Paul and other groups on the Island.
Both Ms Ledger, and Brian Thompson, chairperson of St Mary’s AID have confirmed their share of the funding has gone untouched, and local councillor Maurice Quinlivan of Sinn Fein says it is his understanding very little of the remainder has been distributed.
One resident, who did not wish to be named, said they had applied for help, outlining the amount of damage caused to their home - totalling over €6,000 - and received no response from the committee.
Michael Murphy, of St Vincent de Paul, said that “very little” money had been issued from a church fund which received some €60,000 since he has been on that board.
The committee includes representatives from St Vincent de Paul, the Red Cross, the office of the Limerick Diocese, Limerick City Council/Regeneration, and St Munchin’s Community Centre.
SVP, along with its counterparts, is tasked with deciding where the money should do, but Mr Murphy said the view of the committee is that now that most residents are back on their feet - and in their homes - the money should be spent on a higher purpose, than an individual short term spend.
“The committee’s view at the moment is that people are back in a position where they were before the floods, and in some cases, the houses have been vastly improved to what was there before,” he said.
But others are taking a different viewpoint.
Ms Ledger said: “I meet the residents, and they are lovely. We hear their heart-breaking stories. Yet we have all this money, and we cannot give it out. We don’t want to carry this money through on our accounts, because it makes it look like we have money that we don’t. I just wish it was all over, and they got the money.”
In addition to this, the community centre boss said private companies, including Lloyd’s, which donated €13,000, want to know the fate of their money.
“A lot of the money we got was matched by local businesses. These companies want a report, and it makes us look stupid,” she added.
Mr Thompson said: “We are quite happy to allocate the money, and wish to help people, but the committee [in charge of the main tranche of funds] has failed to come back to us. We had no communication from them, despite requesting it on two occasions, and we will be raising it again. We’re very anxious to give money, but we have to do it in a proper, auditable and accountable way,” he said.
North-side councillor Quinlivan said he is asked about the flood funding on an almost daily basis.
“The money is there, and it needs to be given out,” the Sinn Fein councillor said, “I think people have been overly patient. This money was donated by the majority of people back in February. All over the city, there were people who helped out with funding, and nobody locally has seen any of it.”
Residents in St Mary’s Park have written to the flood committee demanding answers, and are expected to meet this Wednesday.
On top of this, there is also confusion among residents about what the funding should be used for.
While the Department of Social Protection has given money to residents for their essential needs, what this €80,000 fund should be used for remains unclear.
One woman living in Oliver Plunkett Street, one of the worst hit areas, said the money should be distributed evenly among the homes worst affected in order to replace items lost in the devastation, for example decorations.
She was told by St Vincent de Paul that a decision on the monies would be made by the end of October.
“The point is, the money was collected for people for the floods. We honestly don’t think it is up to anybody to dictate to us. Everyone should get an equals amount no matter who you are. Everybody lost out, regardless of whether they had a palace or a pigsty.”
Another lady living in St Patrick’s Avenue, said the money should be used for flood barriers - in spite of the fact the Office of Public Works is assigned to do this job.
“I think the money should be divided equally to have flood defences on your back door and front door. There are going to be high rides every year. If one person gets a penny more than the rest, there will be questions asked.”