Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Show leadership and grit the paths

The footpaths and roadways at Stormont, the seat of Northern Ireland's government, have been gritted and cleared of snow and ice.

It is a private estate with plenty of help available to ensure that MLAs and ministers - as well as staff - don't run the risk of falling and injuring themselves. Nothing wrong with that, but it is a luxury few others in the province can share.

For one week after the current cold snap set in, footpaths and minor roads throughout the province remain coated in a potentially lethal combination of packed snow on top of ice. Many people are virtual prisoners in their own homes, afraid to venture across their doorsteps in case of a fall. Hospitals are reporting a 50% increase in admissions to casualty units of people suffering from fractures and other injuries.

And all this time the Department of Regional Development and local authorities have been engaged in a wrangle over whose responsibility it is to clear the roads and footpaths. Councils are concerned about the cost of clearing away the snow and ice and also of possible litigation for injuries - although they have now been promised indemnity. Some councils are tackling the work, but only on a voluntary basis.

That is no way to tackle a serious problem. The public can accept that it takes some time to cope with the blizzard conditions that have prevailed in recent days - although we have got off lightly compared to other parts of the UK. However, as the days drag by with no apparent improvement, discontent and anger is setting in.

Even the most naive politician must see that the symbolism of a snow-free Stormont while the rest of the province is in the grip of icy conditions sends out a message of MLAs looking after themselves while the public shivers. We need strong leadership from the Minister for Regional Development, Conor Murphy, but, sadly, there is scant evidence of him coming to terms with the task in hand.


From Belfast Telegraph