People returning home for the festive season in Ireland continue to endure hellish travel conditions as an ice storm has severely disrupted road and air transport.
Heavy snow in Ulster extended to Dublin and other parts of Ireland over the weekend, bringing chaos to traffic in the capital city and repeatedly shutting Dublin airport.
Dublin airport shut down again early on Tuesday evening due to the conditions, after being closed for several hours on Monday.
Passengers whose flights had been cancelled were told to leave the building because of what was described as “severe congestion”, but then found no public transport available to take them away. Taxis were finally summoned to the airport following radio and internet appeals.
Localised snow showers last night dumped some 10 to 15 cm in parts of south Dublin, while areas on the city’s northside recorded falls of 1-2 cm.
There were major traffic problems in Santry, north Dublin, with large numbers of motorists abandoning their cars.
Some filling stations in northwest Donegal weren forced to ration petrol and diesel. Many garages had run very low on fuel after treacherous roads prevented oil and delivery delivery trucks from Derry from making the journey to many areas.
On Monday night, commuters in south Dublin spent up to 7 hours negotiating icy roads while others were forced to camp out in Dundrum shopping centre after failing to make it home. Both cars and buses were abandoned along major routes.
A lack of preparedness by officials coupled with a severe shortage of salt and grit to treat the roads was blamed for turning the icy weather into a national crisis.
Sinn Fein TD Pearse Doherty said businesses were struggling in Donegal and families going without heat at Christmas as a result of the government’s failure to properly deal with the roads.
“As a result of this government’s incompetence many families in Donegal may have to spend Christmas in the cold as deliveries of home heating fuel cannot reach them,” he said.
“This is a complete mess and all because the government failed to order sufficient supplies of salt for the roads.
“After last year’s debacle it would be fair to think that the government and the NRA [National Roads Authority] would have their act together this year.”
In a similar situation in January of this year, 26-County Minister for Transport, Noel Dempsey, caused controversy when he refused to interrupt a sunshine vacation in Malta to tackle impassable roads.
Last week, Dempsey announced that he will quit politics at the end of the parliamentary term.
However, there were a number of reports of citizens attempting to assist those stuck by the weather conditions by offering lifts to strangers, rescuing stranded motorists and clearing blocked roads and paths.
In particular, teams of Sinn Fein activists took part in clearing and gritting paths of snow in North Belfast. Speaking from outside the Ardoyne shops today, local representative Gerry Kelly praised those who took part.
“This truly is a community effort with all ages turning up to help. I would like to take this opportunity to remind people at these times to check on elderly neighbours to see if they need any help or just a bit of company as many are housebound due to the snow.”