McCallister Calls For Heads To Roll Over Water Supply Crisis
IN an angry statement to Down News, South Down UUP Assemblyman John McCallister has reacted furiously to the ongoing water crisis and has backed calls for the Minister responsible for Northern Ireland Water, Conor Murphy, to resign.
He said it was “simply not good enough” that many people, a lot of them extremely vulnerable, had still no water supply.”
Mr McCallister explained he had been been “inundated” with complaints of no supply over the holiday period, and that he has been working around the clock to deal with these problems.
“My phone started ringing on Boxing Day and since then, I have heard many many stories of hardship and extreme difficulties. This ranged from severely disabled individuals who rely on carers for washing and basic hygiene, a very premature baby, a mother just released from hospital and farmers battling to keep 40,000 poultry fed and watered.
“The scale of this problem has been enormous, but the biggest problem for people was simple lack of information. People waited for days trying to get through to the emergency number – and most of them never got through. The news channels were urging people to ring and report burst pipes – but people could not get through to log in their problems. It was a total nightmare and people were growing more anxious and frustrated as time went on. The ones lucky enough to get through to NIW were often given insufficient information.
“People were told to refer to NIW website – it crashed on many occasions. There was a link on the website concerning the East of the province and when I got through on a dedicated line for MLAs and Councillors, I too was told to check the link for the East. For three days this link only contained information about Belfast – not a mention of Rathfriland, Banbridge, Dromore or Newry areas. So if the information wasn’t there in the first place, how on earth was I supposed to pass it on?
“The whole incident from the start was shambolic and therefore as UUP Deputy Leader I am backing the UUP Leader Tom Elliott’s call for Conor Murphy to resign.
“I also condemn Conor Murphy’s refusal to ask the Government for assistance. He let political pride stand in the way of asking the Secretary of State and the Government for the help we so desperately needed. The Army could have been used in this instance to help with the aid operation.”
However, Mr McCallister said he had nothing but praise and admiration for the NIW support staff on the ground who worked tirelessly to help address the water crisis.
“These men and women worked around the clock and I spoke to many who never saw their own families over the Christmas holidays as they remained committed to helping those in need. Many of the men I spoke to, left their own families at home with no water supply, so to these people, I take off my hat.”
Mr McCallister was speaking on Monday morning after the water supply had been again disrupted to thousands of homes in Northern Ireland overnight.
About 40,000 properties in NI Water’s Eastern Region had mains water supplies temporarily cut off overnight. Supplies were due to be restored at 0800GMT, although NI Water said it could take up to three hours for it to reach all customers.
Mr McCallister also attacked NIW for failing to have a back-up plan in place to deal with the very well-forecasted weather.
“NIW sent out a number of press releases just before the thaw, and everyone was well prepared for this weather. We knew we had the worst snow in 25 years, and we knew what was coming next. I think it is unforgivable that a lot of people in the province were left without a basic water supply in some cases for nearly two weeks. Heads must roll over this.”