Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Freeze has Danny skating on thin ice

Two years ago after what was dubbed the Big Freeze, Roads Minister Danny Kennedy said his department and local councils had agreed key principles to ensure that footpaths would be gritted.

Today, six days after a large part of Northern Ireland was blanketed in snow, there is no evidence of any agreement between councils and central government over who should be clearing the footpaths of ice and snow.

It has to be accepted that the weather conditions were severe and that no amount of gritting or use of machinery would have cleared roads in rural areas of Co Antrim and Co Down. They were blocked by huge drifts and many remain impassable. The problem that this newspaper highlighted two years ago and which it is doing again today is the clearing of streets and footpaths in and around urban areas.

There are elderly people living in estates on the fringes of Belfast who are unable to get out of their homes because of icy footpaths and roads.

They are often too infirm to avail of the boxes of grit left in estates for residents to use themselves. And even if they get to the main roads, the footpaths there are also ice covered, awaiting for a thaw to clear them. That is unacceptable.

Far too often in this country people are prepared to put up with shoddy service or else turn a blind eye when promised improvements in service are not delivered. This is a case in point. Every householder in the land pays rates – often quite hefty amounts – to their local authority and every taxpayer helps to fund Stormont Executive expenditure. They are entitled to ask at this time what they are getting in return.

Surely it is not too much to expect that people living five or six miles from the centre of Northern Ireland's biggest city, for example, shouldn't be virtually marooned in their homes because no public body feels it is its duty to clear roadways and footpaths of snow and ice? What is Mr Kennedy's response this time?

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