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Unionist Calls For Murphy To Resign Politically Driven Says Ruane
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South Down Sinn Féin Assembly Member Caitríona Ruane has dismissed calls for DRD Minister Conor Murphy to resign and has described attacks on the Minister as “pathetic politicking at a time when ordinary people are suffering”.

Ms Ruane said, “It is ironic that many of the politicians who enthusiastically support the NI Water ‘GoCo’ model established under direct rule, which removed ministerial power over operational decisions on water, are now criticising the DRD Minister with the politically driven charge that he failed to do enough in the face of the recent current crisis.

“One of Minister Murphy’s harshest critics, Sammy Wilson, couldn’t even be bothered to attend last week’s emergency Executive meeting such was his concern about the issue.

“It should also be noted that these are the very same politicians who behind the scenes have been pressing for the introduction of water charges while publicly pedalling a different line. People should be under no illusions, if either the DUP or UUP had been in control of the Department of Regional Development, water charges would have been introduced years ago.

“As Conor Murphy has consistently said, both unionist parties would have no issue with pouring millions more of public money into a GoCo model which clearly isn’t fit for purpose. Instead of petty pathetic politicking on the issue let both unionist parties make it clear where they stand on the future governance of NI Water when Conor Murphy presents proposals on future governance. Presumably, since they are calling for more ministerial intervention, they are now seeking an end to the GoCo model and the privatisation agenda they have been advocating for years,” she added.

Ritchie Continues Call For Severe Weather Taskforce

SDLP Leader Margaret Ritchie MP MLA said the events of the last two weeks powerfully reinforce the case for a severe weather task force which can move quickly to mobilise the resources of all agencies in an emergency.

She said, “The freeze was handled badly and the thaw was handled a lot worse, and over-reliance on the judgement of one department and one minister’s judgement was at the core of the problem. Accountability after the event is vital, but we also need to move quickly beyond the blame game and prepare for the next bout of severe weather which might be just a week or two away.

“Our call in mid-December for a severe weather task force was arrogantly dismissed by Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy who said everything was under control. It clearly wasn’t. The Office of the First Ministers runs an emergency planning group of civil servants, the Civil Contingencies Unit, but there is no evidence that it did anything practical at all in this crisis.

“We need to take the politics and point-scoring out of crisis management. We need a Task Force spanning across all relevant departments and agencies which can plan sensibly for situations like these and move quickly with coordination measures when they arise. And we need sensible structures to mobilise and resource self-help groups in business and farming and the general community, based on the good neighbourliness which so many people are demonstrating in this crisis,”  she added.

Also, Ms Ritchie has called for compensation to be paid to those who suffered as a result of water supply failure. She said, ” The Department of Regional Development should immediately put in place a compensation scheme for those who were left without a mains water supply for several days over the holiday period

“I witnessed first-hand the severe stress and pressure that was experienced by many people throughout Northern Ireland due to the water shortage.

“The daily pressures of running without a mains water supply including having to make alternative arrangements for employees, childcare, care of the elderly and vulnerable, feeding of livestock and at a basic level ensuring access to clean drinking water, placed a severe strain on many families, farmers and businesses.

“Indeed many people had no other option but to go to the additional expense of travelling to the homes of family and friends in areas where water had not been disrupted or where it was easier to alternate water supplies.”

The South Down MP reiterated her call on DRD MInister Conor Murphy “following a litany of failures” to set up right away a compensation scheme through the Financial Assistance Act

Burns Praises Castlewellan Response To The Water Crisis

Meanwhile, now that the water emergency has all but abated and supplies have been largely restored to the thousands of homes left ‘dry’, Castlewellan Sinn Féin Down District Councillor  Stephen Burns has praised the local community for their efforts during the recent water crisis that resulted from the severe bout of cold weather.

Councillor Burns, said, “Along with other local Sinn Féin activists, I assisted local people and businesses during the water shortage. The unprecedented damage caused to water supplies brought out the best in local people as they worked together to ease the difficulties. The extremely cold weather followed by a rapid thaw caused numerous burst pipes which crippled the local water distribution network.

“Despite contactors working round the clock to repair damage to pipes, much of Castlewellan and the surrounding area experienced water shortage for almost a week. NI Water was forced to provide emergency tankers to supply local homes and businesses in the town and great efforts were made to ensure people had access to some water at least.

“The poor state of our water infrastructure is yet another legacy neglect inherited from British Direct Rule Ministers. While opportunist politicians have used the suffering of our community to attack as a political football, by contrast I have been extremely encouraged by the practical response of local people to the water shortage. I personally witnessed the community rallying round the most vulnerable people in our society, delivering much needed water to the disabled and the elderly, and giving sound practical advice on the water sterilisation process. I pay tribute to all our businesses in the town for remaining open despite having no water.

“I would also like to extend my thanks to Down District Council for their prompt response to the crisis, especially opening up local facilities to the public. Castlewellan has always been a close-knit community and I would urge local people to continue to look out for each other, particularly during the winter months,“ he added.