The winter wonderland over most of the country was losing its gloss as the week progressed with school closurres, absent workers, transport difficulties, burst pipes, freezing homes, and long-stay interruptions to normal life making for a miserable time for many.
Throughout Mayo numerous schools around the county closed their doors, making it extremely difficult for parents to go to work and secure childcare at the same time. The Small Firms Association estimated that €7 million in productivity had already been lost through absent workers by Thursday of this week, and expressed fears that the €700 million lost to the economy due to the cold snap in January 2010 could be replicated in multiples beween now and the New Year.
Personal safety and security is also a huge issue in the ongoing cold spell and gardaí and the Road Safety Authority have now launched a keep safe programme in the hope of saving lives; 42 pedestrians were already killed on Irish roads up to November 2010. However Mayo was by no means the worst hit part of the country — the eastern seaboard around Dublin and Wicklow particularly has had to endure isolation and snowdrifts in the ongoing cold snap.
With businesses and householders advised to use common sense in clearing the front of properties in order to avoid any issue of liability, Castlebar Labour councillor Harry Barrett is calling on all sections of the community to get involved in keeping the road network open and pathways cleared of ice, especially in rural areas. He said the issue of liability should not arise if paths were cleared in a sensible manner, echoing a previous statement on the issue by An Taoiseach Brian Cowen.
“If a pavement is cleared in a manner which disposes of snow so as not to create any obstacle or hazard, there is no issue of liability,” the Taoiseach. “So common sense prevails.”
However, the IFA also issued a statement this week criticising some local authorities for refusing to supply grit to farmers willing to assist in clearing minor country roads.
Cllr Barrett commended the efforts of Mayo County Council in coordinating a response to the current freeze. “Loads of grit have been left at various locations for communities to use, mostly at community facilities and steeper hills and schools,” he said. “The council is leaving grit as it is more appropriate than salt for these locations. Salt is available for sale in local co-ops, etc, for private businesses and car parks.
“Farmers have the machinery to grit many rural roads if grit were made available in each area. Many local businesses in Castlebar have done the decent thing and cleared pathways outside their premises, as they have now been assured that their is no legal impediment to clearing streets of snow and ice outside businesses. More action like this must follow from the community at large.”
IFA president John Bryan noted that the heavy snowfall and freezing conditions in some parts of the country were causing problems and disruption to farming. “The biggest difficulty for farmers is getting fodder to livestock and maintaining water pipes in the freezing conditions,” he said.