SAINT Vincent de Paul has confirmed that a definite proposal on how to spend upwards of €80,000 for Limerick’s flood victims will be made in the coming weeks.
It has emerged that thousands of euro in donations from the public are sitting in different accounts across the city, following the flooding in February, but a committee set up to consider how to spend the funds appears paralysed when it comes to making a decision on how best to spend the money.
Brian Thompson, chairperson of St Mary’s Aid, which set up one fund, confirmed they received €17,000 into their account, but he said it was agreed that Saint Vincent de Paul, in line with the committee of the larger church fund, would adjudicate on who should receive the funds.
However, he said the committee have not returned with any applications on who should receive the funds, while flood victims are demanding answers on who is going to receive the monies.
“We are quite happy to allocate the money, and wish to help people, but the committee have failed to come back to us. We have had no communication from them, despite requesting it on two occasions, and we will be raising it again. We are very anxious to give money but we have to do it in a proper, auditable and accountable way,” he told the Limerick Leader.
Mr Thompson said he does not believe the money should be held for another future disaster, as the money was intended to go directly to those affected in February.
“What happens if there is another disaster and another fund is set up then, where is that money going to go?”
One resident, who did not wish to be named, said they applied to the committee for help, outlining the amount of damage caused in their home, totalling over €6,000, and received no response from the board.
The Very Reverend, Canon Donough O’Malley of St Mary’s, said of the €60,000 received in the St Mary’s Parish Relief Fund a lot has been paid out to “all genuine claims”, and said some money is being held back in reserve for “future emergencies”. An official figure of sums paid out hasn’t been disclosed.
Michael Murphy, regional president of Saint Vincent de Paul, who is also on the board of that church fund, said he has never seen the bank balance of that fund and said very little has been issued since his time on the board.
“That’s because a lot of the houses were still being completed or were in the throes of completion, and we wanted to see what would be alleviated by the State. Some of the money from the church fund was paid out before we got involved with it (the committee).
“Everyone wants to see how the money can be spent to benefit the community, rather than individuals, and some people haven’t been affected as much as others.
“During my involvement, nothing has been paid out to individuals. A number of cases are being looked at the moment, more unusual cases, relating to health issues and special needs, which will receive sympathetic treatment.
“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. The residents would agree with it, because repairs were needed on their homes for a very long time and were finally refurbished to a very high standard.”
He agreed that some of the funds are being held “for some type of future catastrophe if it re-occurred”, while consideration is also being given to help assist community groups who played an important part in helping people during the disaster.
He said they recently received a large tranche of applications for funds, but said if they were to grant funds to everyone who applied it would be lucky to reach a three-figure sum, “which wouldn’t make a material difference”.
“People have asked for every sort of assistance, from replacing phones to clothing to kitchen items,” he said.
However, it is believed that much of this has been covered by the State, with nearly €670,000 allocated to Limerick as a result of some 600 claims since February.
Dr Martin Kay, who is writing a book about the floods, said from his discussions with residents there is clear frustration that there has been no communication with residents on where any of the public donations have been spent, if at all.
Dr Kay said the donations were given by the public to provide immediate relief to the residents whose homes had been destroyed, and said they are merely seeking clarity on where the money is going to be spent.
His book, entitled The Limerick Flood of 2014: Cilmate Change and the Case of Unpreparedness, will be launched close to the first anniversary of the disaster next year.