Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: We must make do and carry on

First there was the freeze, then the thaw, and now there is the possibility of more snow and ice to come. This year's severe winter has established weather patterns which require the utmost adaptability, and the sheer determination of everyone to get through.

Once the worst snows for more than 25 years had fallen over Northern Ireland and further severe frost bedded it in, there was an inevitability about the challenges of the thaw facing us now.

Already the Northern Ireland Executive has had more than 10,000 emergency calls due to burst pipes and most households and business premises throughout the province are liable to experience some difficulties through flooding.

This requires the same "Dunkirk" spirit as the worst of the freeze, and people will have to do as best they can in the continuing crisis. The skills of plumbers are at a premium and the rescue and emergency services are at full stretch.

This means that everyone needs not only to be prepared to help themselves but also to try to remain as patient as they can, often in trying circumstances, and this is easier said than done.

The same ground rules remain broadly similar during a thaw as well as a freeze. It is important to take whatever precautions possible to safeguard the hearth and home but also to keep a watchful eye out for neighbours, particularly the elderly. It is equally important for people to look ahead, and, given the recent temperatures and snowfall, this means that everyone needs to remain prepared for the worst.

This applies to the Roads Service, which largely coped well with the worst of the recent freeze, but this cannot be said of local councils, which were too slow to act. This is the time for the councils to plan ahead and to be prepared to combat the worst of the weather, when and where it happens.

In the meantime, and on a brighter note, there are the hardy souls who queue in any weather to obtain a bargain at the sales and that kind of fortitude certainly deserves some reward.

Traders are anticipating a better sales period to help make up for the shortfall in business due to the freeze, and many people will be keen to take advantage of the current VAT rate before it increases early next month.

This has been a tough year for businesses and the consumer, though there is evidence that people have been shopping carefully already and many have been saving their money cannily to take advantage of the current sales.

This has been a challenging year all round, with no sign of a fiscal or icy let-up. The main priority for everyone remains the unusually severe winter and the aftermath of each setback. However, there is a strong individual and community spirit evident everywhere, and with typical Ulster stoicism we will survive.

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