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Councillors snub Mayor's dinner over water crisis

Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein councillors snubbed a dinner hosted by the Lord Mayor of Dublin at the Mansion House on Friday night as water shortages in the capital reached crisis point.

The boycott was organised because many felt it was "deeply inappropriate" for elected members to be wined and dined at a time when many city residents were left without drinking water.

But Dublin Lord Mayor, Labour councillor Emer Costello, defended the event , describing the meal as a working "supper" of beef stroganoff. She said the snub was party political spin and mischief making.

"The idea that councillors and officials who attended the event were feasting and making merry is simply not true."

But Cllr Mary Fitzpatrick, leader of the six-strong Fianna Fail grouping on Dublin City Council, told the Sunday Independent that the event should have been postponed.

"I think it is simply not appropriate for councillors to be attending a drinks and dinner reception in the Mansion House when thousands of people in the capital are in real distress because of the water shortages," she said.

"I spoke with other councillors from the party about it and they, like me, felt it really was not appropriate that we attend," she added.

But the Lord Mayor said that one Fianna Fail councillor, Deirdre Heney, attended, as well as a former Lord Mayor Michael Mulcahy. No members of Sinn Fein attended.

"The event was the annual inspection of the Mansion House, a traditional event usually held before Christmas. It was planned long before the present crisis caused by the bad weather. Those who attended were given a presentation of the Conservation Plan for the Mansion House -- it was very much a working social function.

"It was not dinner, it was supper -- beef stroganoff with rice. It was very informal," the Lord Mayor said.

Yesterday the crisis in the capital intensified with the council urging the public not to use water to wash cars, paths or for any other non-essential use. The public's cooperation will help to improve the supply of water.

The freeze over Christmas and the early days of January caused a dramatic increase in broken water mains.

The council pointed out that the ground will continue to move as the thaw continues and this will cause further damage and breakages to the water mains, resulting in increased loss of water.

Yesterday a number of areas had water pressure reduced, including Walkinstown, Errigal Rd, Balfe Rd, Crumlin Rd, Clogher Rd, Clonmacnoise, Clanbrassil St Lower, Clanwilliam Place, Brunswick Street Green/ Church St, Irishtown, Pembroke Rd, Merrion Rd, Anglesea Rd, Mespil Rd, Bath Ave and Merrion Rd South.

All areas in the north-east of the city, from the M1 as far as Artane, are either without water or on reduced pressure.

Griffith Ave, Mobhi Rd, Drumconda and surrounding areas were still experiencing loss of pressure on Saturday.

Poppintree/Oakwood/Mel-ille and Finglas West should have water back today, although they should anticipate short interruptions.

The Council pointed out that in those areas to which water supply has been restored, it can take a number of hours to distribute water back into the network and reach sufficient water pressure levels.

Stationary water tankers were set up in most parts of the city yesterday. The council have also set up a hotline. People who want to arrange a water tanker to call to the elderly or other people most in need can call 01-2220600.

But while supplies of potable water remained tight, rain and thawing snow caused flooding in many parts of the country yesterday.

Met Eireann said rainfall up to 30mm fell in parts of the east and south on Friday, accelerating the melting of snow in upland areas. Co Wicklow was the worst hit, with motorists being advised to avoid Arklow, Rathdrum and Baltinglass yesterday as the river Slaney burst its banks in several places after the thaw set in following three weeks of snow and freezing weather.

Arklow bridge, linking the town's north and south sides, had to be closed to traffic as fears grew that the bridge might have been damaged by the pressure of the huge volume of water coming down the river to the sea.

Local councillor Pat Fitzgerald said that the flooding was the worst the town had experienced since Hurricane Charley in 1986 and the life and trade of the town was halted as a result.

In Bray, several houses off Old Connaught Avenue were evacuated at 4am on Saturday morning. The residents, including two men with disabilities in their 70s and a family with two children, were helped by local fire crews.

The freezing temperatures of December and early January have left the country's roads littered with potholes, some a foot deep.

In Co Tipperary, the N24 route, between Cahir and Clonmel, is so badly damaged that the council has placed temporary traffic lights in several parts. Similarly, the N11 road north of Ferns in Co Wexford is described as being particularly bad.

There are "very deep potholes" reported on several routes in Co Cork, including the N28 Cork to Carrigaline Road and between Tallow and Middleton.

Sunday Independent