As the country emerges from the weather and big freeze crisis, what can be learned? Were the local authorities adequately resourced to deal with it?
They seemed much better than a decade or two ago, but compared to their European counterparts, who must be facing this weather every winter, they had less.
As tax payers do we want more plant that may idle most of the year or over buy salt that may deteriorate? These are the choices, certainly in Wicklow and Donegal where snow is more frequent they need more. Back up plans could be better to assist the local authority if they could not manage.
The army could be brought in sooner. In Britain they helped a lot with the floods but here the Civil Defence is called upon. Why not get the army vehicles assisting people to get food deliveries and fuel in remote areas? Could the army have done more and should they be trained more for this work? They did back up the Gardai when needed.
We recall the Air Corps bringing people to hospital and delivering fodder to farmers in the Wicklow mountains back in 1982 during a previous freeze up and we were with the helicopter personnel at the time. Were the hospitals able to cope with all the fracture injuries?
Could the paths have been kept safer? Would we need to change the law and make householders and business owners responsible for an area outside their premises as they are in the USA, Canada and Germany?. At present the law is vague and could leave them open to action if they do it and someone then falls, better to do nothing now or possibly face a writ.
The national media wanted to hunt down a Minister and blame him for the weather trouble. This seemed a little pointless and reminded one of Dublin in 1982 when the then Tanaiste and Labour Leader, Michael O’Leary, had to take the heat and be called Minister for Snow when Taoiseach Garret Fitzgerald was out of the country. He was Energy Minister at the time, as opposed to John Gormley, the Green Minister for the Environment, with Transport Minister Noel Dempsey in Malta on a family vacation. Why did the schools close for so many days? Parents it seems were too willing to keep children at home and thus make a bad situation worse.
We were glad to see the Education Minister reverse the previous decision of Friday and cancel three days school this week. That decision was based on weather forecasting that later proved incorrect. How often have Met Eireann got it wrong in the last 12 months? We only have to judge the damage they did to the tourist industry in the South East with their inaccurate forecasting. They also need a revamp and update of their forecasting skills.
The country will need to get a grip on itself and not be in a state of national paralysis. When bad weather hits, some resilience is needed. A weak economy has been made weaker and slows down a chance of recovery. Businesses have been hurt as customers stay away from shops. Absenteeism has risen making it hard to manage business.
The Government needs to tell the people to get on with life and not be moaning about the weather. Just put on some proper clothes and get on with life as there were far too many holed up at home needlessly. One must have sympathy for the elderly in these harsher conditions. The old do need care as do the sick but those that are healthy should be going to work and not looking for excuses to skive off as one Dubliner told us last week.
The lack of work ethic was very noticeable among some who were glad to see less work available or services closed. The lack of leadership in Government did encourage this attitude but surely that is more within ourselves. It is this bad habit of blaming and seeking others for the weather problem that seems a little crazy. We just need to adjust and get on with life.
Improving winter driving skills and preparing roads for easy driving would be a good plan for the future. A year’s normal road salt use has been gone through in a month nearly, so better planning for the future is needed. It was a lot better than other years and the councils should be praised. Their resources are limited, they do need special emergency funds from the central Government.
An inactive economy due to transport paralysis reduces tax revenue and loses the economy 500 million euro a week as Jim Power economist pointed out. This must be avoided. But overall greater awareness of preparing for winter is essential for people, educational institutions and businesses as well as people. A repeat of such weather should not lead to the same dislocation.
Before we conclude, well done to the local authority staff for working in such bad weather, to doctors and Waterford Regional Hospital workers and to transport people for keeping their part functioning if others could not. They were the heroes in the bad weather front.