Following numerous phone calls to the Elected Reps emergency response line of DRD Road Service over the previous 48 hours and with no positive outcome, I issued a press release highlighting the inability of Road Service to respond in a crisis situation on the evening of Sunday 24th March.
I suggested the government body was penny pinching and were more mindful of budgets than helping those trapped in their homes without electricity, water or essentials including food and heat.
What I had been calling for was for Road Service to task more machinery to Roads were people were completely trapped. I had machinery organised and ready to continue clearing roads. Roads Service refused to task them.
Following an interview on Radio Ulster’s Talkback programme, Road Service in a P.R. exercise helped to deflect my criticism by indicating that the plant may not have been suitable or that there may have been problems with insurance. This was utter folly as the contractors were fully insured, working previously for Road Service (something I informed them of and that they seemed to know all to well) and had similar and more advanced plant than some that was already on the ground. But worse was to follow;
Some of my colleagues in Moyle were fit to praise Road Service from the comfort of their armchairs in Ballycastle while not having a clue what was happening on the ground. When people do not know what is happening on the ground, it is essential they do not comment as they only frustrate emergency response situations and allow the likes of DRD Road Service off the hook for their inaction over a crucial 48 hour period. In part the large loss of livestock we are now witnessing is down to the inaction of DRD Road Service in clearing roads and allowing access to the animals.
In finishing I also recognise that many other colleagues were on the ground and played a significant role in helping to gain a response for the community in the Middle Glens area. I also recognise that they found DRD up to the task presented and were happy with the efforts of the body. I can only rely what I witnessed myself in those negotiations and efforts to task more machinery to the Greenans Road, Torr Road, Stroan Road and Ballyvennaght among others. Five diggers lay idle only a short distance away. Snow blowers also lay idle in several locations throughout the North and were never tasked even though the areas they were stored in had no snow whatsoever.
Several employees from DRD Roads Service informed me of this. When I challenged the DRD and asked them to bring them to the Glens they refused. I was put on hold and then asked to speak to a supervisor who seemed more concerned with who in his department had shared the information than actually admitting that they themselves had not, after all, tasked all available resources as had previously been claimed.
A full inquiry is essential should the unique and dreadful conditions ever manifest themselves again so we may learn from the mistakes of the last number of days. I will be calling on Moyle District Council to request a dedicated meeting with DRD Minister Danny Kennedy to give everyone a chance to respond with their concerns on the failings of the emergency operation.