Belfast Telegraph

Friday 28 November 2014

Water crisis-hit schools to reopen

Schools are set to reopen despite the water pipes crisis
Schools are set to reopen despite the water pipes crisis

Almost all schools in Northern Ireland will open on time on Tuesday after the water leaks crisis.

Just nine have been forced to stay shut because of flood damage, education minister Caitriona Ruane said.

But supplies to around 10,000 properties still affected by the disruption face further restrictions. The areas include greater Belfast where service reservoirs have yet to fill up. Another 300 customers have still to be reconnected and must go without supplies.

Laurence MacKenzie, chief executive of Northern Ireland Water, the company at the centre of the burst mains fiasco which left tens of thousands of homes without water over Christmas and New Year, is under pressure to resign.

Conor Murphy, the regional development minister who ordered a full investigation into the affair, also faced demands to go.

It was feared many classrooms affected by leaks might not be able to reopen, but Ms Ruane confirmed that more or less all schools will be ready for pupils returning after the holidays after maintenance staff were able to carry out repair work.

Before Christmas most of the schools closed because of the heavy snow, ice and freezing temperatures.

She said: "We initially had several hundred incidents reported but close co-operation at all levels has greatly reduced this number, thus reducing the potential inconvenience to pupils."

Ulster Unionist Party leader Tom Elliott said Mr Murphy had to take responsibility for the emergency.

But pressure is likely to remain on Mr MacKenzie, the £250,000-a-year boss at NIW whose initial handling of the crisis provoked public outrage after homes had to go without proper washing and toilet facilities, some for 10 days.

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