Thursday 20 January 2005


I must apologise for my libelling of Northern Ireland's fine, upstanding local councils. Turns out that I was wrong when I said that they hadn't gritted the roads in response to Tuesday's snow. It turns out that the council did grit the roads overnight. Oh, yes. It snowed, so they gritted the roads, just like they should. What happened next — and this was surely such freakish weather that no mortal could have foreseen it — is that it snowed again, over the top of the grit. To deal with such circumstances, the council would have needed to grit the roads again, and, er, didn't.

What pisses me off is that everyone seems to be accepting this "explanation".

I watched the local BBC news on Tuesday night, just to see their report on the weather. They pointed out all the difficulties everyone had had — looks like it took at least two hours to get into Belfast from any direction — then said something like, "And we're all left wondering yet again how so little snow can cause so much disruption." Aha! I thought. This is the good bit. This is where they start asking people in charge of roads how and why they fucked up. This is, in fact, why I'm watching. Nope. It was actually the final line of the report. A report that lasted at least ten minutes, yet which contained not even one single quote from anyone in the council whose job it is to stop so little snow causing so much disruption, and whose negligence led directly to people being injured in car crashes.

Meanwhile, Vic overheard a Northern Ireland Railways employee talking to one of his friends at Bangor West Station. He had known it was snowing, so had got up extra early and come out to grit the platforms. Surely a model employee who deserves some sort of raise, but probably didn't even get paid overtime for his efforts. Anyway, dealing with just one layer of snow used up his entire grit supply, so, when the second snowfall covered the grit, he couldn't put any more down, so he cleared the platforms with a makeshift shovel. Notice the word "makeshift" there. NIR provide their stations with enough grit to deal with no more than one snowfall, and no bloody shovel.

The council aren't always as ineffective as they are in the face of a light dusting of snow. We were wandering around the shops the other day when Vic got a call on her mobile. It was the Rate Collection Agency calling to find out who we are, since we've recently purchased a new house, and to ask how to contact the previous owner. At no point have we contacted the Rate Collection Agency or given them our phone numbers, and, if we had, we'd have given them the landline number. Yet here they were, ringing Vic on her mobile. Of course, the Data Protection Act prevents any company passing on her mobile phone number to another company or mere individual, but that doesn't seem to apply to the government. Funny, that.

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