Belfast Telegraph

Blame game is a fig leaf for MLAs

As Northern Ireland continues with embarrassing slowness to get to grips with the water crisis, politicians are keen to deflect the blame onto NI Water. While there is validity in the accusation that the agency's response has been, at times, shambolic and that there is little evidence of robust forward planning, the issue goes much wider than just how effective the body has been operationally. What the current crisis has exposed is the fragility of the entire water distribution network.

And it is simply not good enough to proffer the excuse, as a number of politicians have done, of years of underinvestment by direct rule ministers during the Troubles.

Yet again Northern Ireland is seen as a region whose political leaders accept no responsibility for any crisis. In their eyes, the fault always lies with someone else. It is a mantra which, quite frankly, everyone is tired of hearing.

The Troubles have been over for 15 years. There was an enormous financial peace dividend and it was up to local politicians how that money was invested. They were the people who should have been drawing up their priorities for investment and taking tough decisions when required. At a time when thousands of people are buying expensive bottled water, the idea of water charges - with suitable safeguards for the elderly and low-income families - does not seem an excessive demand.

Being responsible for one's own actions is the price tag that comes with devolved government. Suggestions that extra funding should be made available from Westminster to modernise the water distribution system will be laughed out of court. Just as with the fiasco over gritting, the crisis created by burst pipes is a very expensive wake-up call to everyone in Northern Ireland.

We simply have to govern ourselves more effectively and stop the incessant blame game as a fig leaf for our own inefficiencies.

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