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John Gormley: Yes, we will be reviewing our salt stocks policy

It has been a difficult week as people struggled to get to work and get their children back to school in the ice and snow. I understand the frustration expressed in the article in last Friday's Evening Herald.

The emergency response committee consists of all arms of government, because the snow and ice affect so many aspects of our lives.

I believe great credit has to go to all the people who have worked around the clock to keep the country going. You only have to look at the news from the UK and abroad to realise that our response compares well to that of other countries.

We have used the Army and civil defence to assist the health service and deliver supplies to older people and farmers. A key priority has been keeping the national road network open and functioning through these severe weather conditions.

The National Roads Authority (NRA) and the local councils have had gritters out, many with snow blades, clearing the snow and spreading salt as required.

With dense snow, grit made of sand and gravel, was not enough. A good deal of salt was necessary to melt snow and keep road lanes open.

Over the past seven days up to last night some 20,000 tonnes of salt were needed on the roads. That's getting on for half the entire amount used in an average year.

To give Herald readers a clear example: last Wednesday night in Dublin, as the snow fell heavily, 250 tonnes of salt were used on the main roads. That compares with 60 tonnes that would be used on an average frosty winter night.


There has been a similar spiral in the demand for salt not just across the country -- but all across western Europe. Countries such as Scotland, England and Germany -- where the authorities have more regular experience dealing with long freeze-ups -- have struggled to keep up the necessary supplies.

In Ireland, local councils keep 10 days' salt supply on hand at any time during the winter for use on roads.

Obviously, from this on we will have to ensure that this is reviewed.

From today, the salt supply situation continues to be a key issue.

Local authorities which had been running low have been replenished to ensure that they have enough for the national primary routes for the next few days.

We continue to ask drivers to undertake only essential journeys and to be careful on the roads.

Happily, Met Eireann is increasingly confident the severe cold spell will come to an end through next weekend.