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Army didn't want to clear ice -- council

The Army has been accused of not being 'rough and ready' when it came to clearing footpaths during the big freeze.

Despite repeated statements from the top brass in the Defence Forces that they were happy to intervene when and where local authorities asked, one council is alleging that was not always true.

According to Limerick County Council, the Army was not prepared to clear footpaths, except in special circumstances such as outside hospitals.

Director of Transportation and Water Services Paul Crowe said that officials asked for help to clear footpaths at a special meeting on January 11.

"We discussed the issue and representatives of the Defence Forces who were present made it clear to us that the clearing of the snow from the footpaths would not have been deemed to be an emergency in their eyes," he said.

However, the Defence Forces said that the Council made no official request for help in gritting the pavements.

"We received requests to do a range of tasks, which included de-icing and gritting from places that were affected right across the country and we acceded to all those requests," said a spokesperson.

Mr Crow has agreed that a formal request was not made, but maintains that it was discussed at the meeting where officials planned their response.

The Government has been widely criticised for its emergency response to the big freeze, which didn't kick in until the country was already debilitated by ice and snow.

There were also questions asked about why it took so long for the Defence Forces to become involved.

They maintained that they could not intervene until asked to do so by local authorities.

Fine Gael councillor Liam Gavin has called on the Government to draw up an emergency plan so that the country will be ready in the event of another freak weather period.

"The help the army gave to the people of rural Ireland, and Limerick, in particular, was zero," he alleged.

"This was an emergency. They should have been told to do footpaths."