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Tuesday 24 January 2017

Snow joke: we've heard it all before

Inept reaction evokes memories of coalition floundering back in 1982

Published 10/01/2010 | 05:00

The lack of clear political initiatives as the country grinds to a halt in sub-zero temperatures has clear parallels with the conditions of 1982, which effectively ended the political career of 'Minister for Snow' Michael O'Leary.

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The drama of early January 1982 began when Ireland, and particularly Dublin and the east coast, was paralysed under heavy snowfalls.

The then taoiseach, Dr Garret FitzGerald was on a short holiday in the Canaries -- taking a break from the constant struggle of trying to put the public finances in order -- when the crisis began.

Mr O'Leary, then tanaiste and leader of the Labour Party, was designated to take command of the crisis -- and he was immediately branded 'Minister for Snow' in the public mind.

There was such a media and public outcry at the lack of response from the public authorities that Dr FitzGerald actually cut his holiday short to return to a country in crisis.

In his memoirs Dr FitzGerald was far more critical of the helplessness displayed by the public themselves, than he was of the authorities whose job it was to clear the roads and paths.

He spoke of the "unreasoning resentment of the public that seemed to have lost any appetite for self-help in a crisis of this kind" and added that instead of doing something for themselves the public expected "the government would arrive at once to clear not only the road but also the paths to their houses and the front steps as well".

For those struggling through last week's slush its refreshing to know that things never really change.

Sunday Independent

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