03/12/2010

Christmas Card Scenes As Snow Blankets NI

Picturesque winter scenes across NI are today being further enhanced by fresh falls of snow blowing in from an Atlantic weather system.

However, it is adding to the continuing Siberian freeze that has seen much of the British Isles grinding to a halt, with disruption in NI expected to continue into the weekend at least.

Numerous schools have been closed with heavy snow reported in parts of Co Londonderry, Antrim, Tyrone and Fermanagh and this morning, heavy showers were also coating most of Belfast on Friday morning.

Meanwhile, East Londonderry MLA David McClarty has called for a multi-agency approach to be adopted to ensure that the Department for Regional Development and local councils co-ordinate their efforts to ensure roads and pavements are kept free from ice and snow and to make them safe for the public.

"This current cold spell has once again highlighted the need for a co-coordinated approach to be adopted by the Department for Regional Development and local Councils when it comes to the gritting of roads and pavements.

"Icy roads and pavements are a major problem for road users and pedestrians and greatly hamper the mobility of people, especially the elderly.
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"A co-coordinated approach is required and any attempt to save public money by not properly gritting roads or pavements is a false economy as even more money will in all likelihood have to be spent on treating people in hospitals as the result of falls which could have been avoided has the streets been properly treated in the first place," he said.

Across the border, a severe weather warning from Met Éireann remains in effect today with more snow forecast.

The news comes as the Dáil Environment Minister John Gormley announced the provision of €15 million extra 'contingency funding' for local authority costs related to the severe weather.

He said that local authority staff have been working round the clock with other State bodies and transport agencies to ensure the country. The aim at all times of Government and the agencies of State is to "minimise disruption and to ensure society functions as close to normality as possible".

Minister Gormley described the current weather conditions as "record breaking" and said: "It has been almost 40 years since we have had snow and ice so early in the Winter, and it is unusual for the cold weather to persist so intensely without respite.

"And the forecasts tell us this cold snap will last for at least a further week.

"With the prospect of these challenging conditions set to stay with us for such a period we recognise the exceptional nature of what we are dealing with.

"I am pleased to be able to say that I will make €15m available from within my Vote for those local authorities most in need of supplementary funding, as a contribution to their exceptional costs, over and above the costs they would ordinarily be expected to meet in the context of yearly Winter weather demands.

"My Department will be in touch with local authorities in relation to making the necessary arrangements," he said.

(BMcC/GK)

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