7 January 2010 Edition

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Government's inadequate response to cold weather criticised

SINN FÉIN TD Martin Ferris has described the Government’s response to the current cold weather conditions as completely inadequate. Ferris said cutbacks at local authority level are now having an effect as many thousands of people have been isolated.
“Many thousands of people in rural communities have been completely isolated over the Christmas period as the cold snap made roads impassable. The Government’s response has been completely inadequate.
“Cutbacks at local authority level are now having an effect, as councils are failing to get to grips with the problem. In many counties only national roads are being gritted as resources are not available for smaller, rural roads to be maintained,” the Kerry North TD said.
“The Government must act to get the country back up and running as soon as possible. There should be an all-island approach to the sourcing of grit for the roads, as areas from Carrickfergus to Cork are running short.
“Overall, the Government must snap out of its seasonal hangover and fix our roads.”

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin Dáil leader and Health & Children spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has called for the introduction of a special emergency payment for recipients of Fuel Allowance to help them cope with the freezing weather and the remainder of the winter.
Ó Caoláin said:
“To assist the least well-off cope over these bitterly cold weeks I am calling on the Government to make a special emergency payment to all fuel allowance recipients.
“Many of the least well-off families and individuals will already have spent a large part of their small incomes in attempting to keep their homes heated. By now, in many cases, their entire winter budget for fuel will have been exhausted. Therefore, they will need assistance to get over the current historically cold spell and to continue to heat their homes for the rest of the winter.
“I am urging the Minister for Social and Family Affairs to introduce a special payment as an emergency measure. Surveys have shown that almost 10% of households in this State experience fuel poverty. The most straightforward way to introduce such a payment would be to make it available to all current recipients of Fuel Allowance but provision should also be made for other households who are in fuel poverty.
“Given the unjust and unnecessary social welfare cuts in Budget 2010, the very least that the Government should now do is take exceptional measures to ensure that people in the least well-off households do not suffer illness and perhaps death as a result of the cold.
“I would also urge all citizens to direct their thoughts, and actions where possible, to the least well-off, including the homeless, those with inadequate heating, and the elderly living alone, both in isolated rural Ireland and in our urban environments. They all need our assistance, however little we might have to give. Our time might be all that is required. Showing our concern in a real and practical way can bring a warm glow into the lives of others.”

An Phoblacht
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