Sinn Féin county councillor Gerry Murray has deemed the Government response to the big freeze as ‘farcical’. Cllr Murray set out a number of steps that still need to be taken to address the hardship caused by the freezing weather.
“The arctic weather is causing huge hardship across the country – for those unable to leave their homes due to ice and snow, those without water or heat, those who cannot afford to meet the extra costs of heating their homes through this prolonged cold spell,” Cllr Murray said.
“Underfunded councils are simply not prepared to deal with the extent of the crisis and clearly neither is the Government. What we are getting from the Government is far too little, far too late. All available resources and personnel should be deployed to help those worst affected by the severe weather.
“It took up until Thursday January 7 for someone to be put in charge of the Government’s response while the Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey chose to remain on his holidays as transport grinds to a halt,” Cllr Murray fumed.
“Up until Thursday evening the only reference on the Department of the Environment website to the arctic weather was a statement announcing that the freezing conditions would lead to the ‘temporary closure of the hunting season for waterfowl’.
“There is nothing to suggest that any thought whatsoever was given to those people stranded and snowbound in their homes; nothing about the fact that some householders have been without water since before Christmas; nothing on the Department of Agriculture website suggesting any concern for the plight of farmers for whom this weather is creating huge difficulties. The Government appears oblivious to the extent of hardship being experienced across the State,” Cllr Murray added.
Sinn Féin has called for one government agency to be given overall responsibility for coordinating the response to ensure that the road network (national, secondary, and tertiary roads ) are accessible.
Where possible local authority staff from other sections within the council should be redeployed to clear roads and footpaths.
The Defence Forces should be deployed to clear roads and footpaths and to ensure water, food, and fuel is distributed to those without water or unable to leave their homes because of ice and snow.
Minister Gormley should make clear that an additional payment will be made as part of the 2010 road maintenance grant to local authorities to cover the cost of additional gritting.
Sinn Féin is also calling for the introduction of a special emergency payment for recipients of fuel allowance to help them cope with the current spell of freezing weather and the remainder of the winter.
Grit should be made available to homeowners including the provision of grit boxes in housing estates and in local communities.
All emergency vehicles including gardaí, fire brigades, and ambulances should be fitted with winter tyres.
VAT rates for winter tyres should be reduced to 13.5 per cent to encourage motorists (particularly in those parts of the country most prone to ice and snow ) to utilise these in the winter.