Saturday 25 May 2019

Another storm we could not weather

What is it about us Irish and the weather? We have what is by any standards one of the most benign climates on the planet, with, at most, a couple of weeks' snow and frost every winter along with a couple of days' torrential rain.

When one compares the Irish climate to the extremes endured by other countries, our apparent inability to cope with the occasional outbreak of bad weather is truly remarkable.

Every winter the likes of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Switzerland seem to be able to manage the vagaries of the climate with little bother. Closer to home Scotland, which has by far the most extreme climate on these islands, also seems to cope fairly well.

So what is it about Ireland? A couple of hours' rain or a couple of inches of snow and the entire country seems to grind to a halt. The downpour visited on the east coast on Monday and yesterday morning was no exception. The Luas Green Line was shut as was most of the DART commuter railway along with several major roads.

This is profoundly depressing. Not alone is the Irish climate, the events of the past few days notwithstanding, a temperate one, with over a century of detailed meteorological records at our disposal we should have a pretty good idea of the worst it can throw at us on the relatively rare occasions when it does turn really nasty.

Surely forewarned should be forearmed? Not it would seem if you are an Irish administrator.

Every autumn and winter tens and sometimes hundreds of thousands of people have to suffer blocked roads and railways, flooded homes and power cuts every time we have a spot of slightly extreme weather.

Why is it that whenever the weather cuts up rough we seem to be rendered completely helpless?

What is that prevents the Irish administrative system, both central and local government, from planning in advance for occasional outbreaks of extreme weather and implementing those plans when bad weather does strike? After all it's not exactly rocket science.

About the only positive aspect of the past few days has been the selflessness of the emergency services in coming to the assistance of those in distress.

This was perhaps best exemplified by off-duty Garda Ciaran Jones, who was swept away by the floodwaters while trying to warn motorists of the danger.

Unfortunately, the courage and bravery of individual members of the emergency services is being squandered by this failure to effectively plan in advance.

Minister of State Brian Hayes has promised that a "post-event analysis" of the official response to the downpour will be conducted in the coming weeks.

Unless it is hard-hitting and holds those individuals and organisations who failed responsible, then we will be condemned to even more chaos the next time we are hit by a spot of bad weather.

Irish Independent

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