Now Dempsey sparks public fury over perilous footpaths

... as another week of weather misery looms before big thaw

Cormac Murphy

PUBLIC fury about the perilous state of footpaths grew today when Transport Minister Noel Dempsey couldn’t promise they’d be made safe.

Mr Dempsey failed to assure the public the government would respond quickly to the dangerous condition of most city pavements.

He failed to raise the possibility of raising contingents of young unemployed men to clear footpaths or bring in reserve or fulltime soldiers to do it.

Hospitals have been inundated with fracture injuries because of the icy underfoot conditions — many of life altering falls, said a consultant.


Minister Dempsey then stated “nobody ever said” all minor roads or housing estates would be cleared. He claimed it was “physically impossible” to treat every area with grit, saying “we don’t have the manpower”.

His comments come as it emerged that a minor road leading to his Co. Meath home had been gritted on Thursday.

Mr Dempsey said it is “not possible here or any other country in the world to cover all footpaths, all side roads or anything else. It's unfortunate but that's the way it is,” he added.

“There are quite a number of communities who have been helping themselves and helping their neighbours and looking after each other but again I wouldn't expect every housing estate or the residents of every housing estate to do that,” he said.

It has emerged hospitals around the country are being put under severe pressure by the number of people presenting with fractures. The HSE said the figures are 50pc above normal for this time of year.

Gavin Maguire, head of emergency management at the HSE, said additional beds have been opened to cope with the upsurge. He said people are sustaining complex fractures because of the speed of falls on ice and force of impact.

“These fractures are not just breaks, in many cases they can be life-changing injuries,” he said.

Meanwhile, the big thaw is forecast to come at the end of the week as temperatures begin to rise. However, motorists and pedestrians will have to be extremely careful until then as black ice makes surfaces slippery. The Road Safety Authority today pleaded with drivers to slow down, while commuters were again hit with transport services disruptions.

Air temperatures below -14C were recorded this morning.

Assistant Garda Commissioner John Twomey also appealed to motorists to drive at safe speeds for the conditions.

“The biggest challenge we are facing is from frost and black ice. Our advice to motorists is that there has been no substantial improvement in road conditions,” he told RTE Radio's Morning Ireland.

David Rogers of Met Eireann said it will be the end of the week before temperatures rise.

“Wednesday night is probably the last of the very cold nights. During Thursday, there will be a degree of warming up. Through Friday, a general rise in temperatures, more cloud overall and probably the last of the frosts on Thursday night,” he said.

Among the Dublin bus services disrupted was the No 2, which was unable to serve Sandymount Village, St John's Church, Sydney Parade or Belfield. The No 7a was unable to serve Mackintosh Park or Blackrock Village on the inbound journey.

Worst hit Bus Eireann services were in north Louth, some parts of the Midlands and around Kildare and Meath. Iarnrod Eireann had a full service operating.

Dense fog and black ice affected drivers along the M7, particularly at J10 and J9 Naas. Similar conditions were experienced on the M9.