Thaw brings water crisis
Thaw brings water crisis

Tens of thousands of people across Ireland were left without water over the New Year because of burst water mains and dry and depleted reservoirs.

In the North, where the crisis was worst, politicians complained of the problem being exacerbated by a failure of the authorities to keep people properly informed of the situation.

The North’s water service was criticised as shambolic and not fit for purpose by the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister.

Several parts of Belfast were badly hit by what ‘Northern Ireland Water’ described as an “unprecedented” strain on its system. Other areas affected included Lisburn, Armagh, Lurgan, Coleraine, Antrim, Newtownabbey, Templepatrick and Coalisland.

Some householders have had no water for 13 days. Thousands of people queued for emergency supplies from tankers and stand pipes across the province.

The Lagan Valley Hospital in Lisburn, Co Antrim and the South Tyrone Hospital have also suffered supply problems.

Speaking after a three-hour emergency meeting of the Stormont executive yesterday, Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness were scathing in their denunciation of NI Water and offered little backing for chief executive Laurence MacKenzie who faces resignation calls.

“It isn’t simply a case of under-performing, we believe it has been shambolic at stages, it has been ineffective,” said Mr Robinson. “It has not been the kind of organisation that is fit for purpose.” Mr McGuinness referred to NI Water’s role throughout the crisis as “totally unacceptable behaviour by an arms-length body”.

“We are not prepared to accept this treatment on behalf of citizens. Arms-length bodies need to be held to account. Under no circumstances are we going to stand here and make excuses for a body that has failed so miserably.”

Referring to Mr MacKenzie’s position, Mr Robinson said: “People must assess their own position and of course if people don’t assess their own position the [ Stormont Executive’s] review will look at where responsibility lies and decisions will be taken on the foot of that.”

Dublin City Council, which also has a high proportion of older and more fragile mains pipes, was also badly affected, with thousands cut off and those still connected only receiving water for six hours a day.

Water restrictions in the Dublin area are expected to continue for at least 12 day.

There are also still problems in both Cork and Galway city and county and in County Clare. Galway County Council has warned that there are night-time restrictions on all its water schemes.

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© 2011 Irish Republican News