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Terry Prone: This 'Ah, sure it'll all go away' response to the Big Freeze just won't cut any ice with the public

THE maddening aspect of the past few days has been the "Ah, sure it'll go away", attitude, closely linked to the "Ah, sure it only happens very rarely".

Of course it will go away. But it may not go away for a week. During that week, companies like mine will have their income halved. People don't go on training courses in bad weather. Even more strangely, people don't go on LEADERSHIP training programmes in snow.

How daft is that?

The greatest leaders, the ones who figure in all leadership programmes, are the guys like Shackleton, who coped with a snow, ice and starvation. Yet in Ireland, potential leaders say "Ah, it'll do in January. Where's the hot chocolate?"


This kind of weather came as a surprise earlier this year. It came as slightly less of a surprise this November, so the local authorities had supplies of grit and salt.

Those supplies are running out, and it's clear we don't have enough snowploughs, although you could buy a fleet of them with the payoffs to politicians we're currently reading about.

Dermot Ahern's golden handshake of more than €300,000 could pay for a perfectly serviceable snow plough that could be whizzing around clearing every backroad this minute.

Even though it's icy and Leinster, in particular, has been subject to recurring blizzards, it's nothing like Finland, where the birds drop dead out of the trees during a cold snap, or Canada, or the big cities in the north of America.

In those locations, their priority is to keep the shops open and the businesses in operation.

Our priorities don't match up to theirs. While businesses in Ireland have to deal with a mountain of regulations, we have no regulations about the responsibility of the individual business when we hit a cold snap.

One of the simple regulations, for example, would be to insist that every business with a front entrance opening on to the pathway outside has an obligation to clear the stretch of path directly outside their area.

It's not that hard. A hard brush. A hammer (to break up the ice.) A bag of salt. And a little energy. That's all you need. And it's great PR: it says "We take account of the public good."

The end result is that our cities are a disgrace in a way that can't be blamed on local authorities.

They're doing their best with the roads. Very few people are doing their best with the paths, as Olivia Mitchell, John Lonergan and hundreds of other sufferers from broken bones and dislocations can prove.

Of course airports are closing down for safety reasons. But, particularly in the present economic blizzard, we need to get up off our asses and show a few coping skills.

It's not like we're still in school and can welcome the white stuff as a way of getting out of homework and an opportunity to go fling ourselves on the ground to make snow angels.

The level of absenteeism and postponement might have been okay in the days when we were awash in money. It isn't okay in present circumstances.

More than ever we need things to be functioning and we need to help each other to get through.


I know one boss who owns a 4X4 who made himself available last night to take any of his stranded staff home.

We all know jeep owners who have brought food and fuel to older people. We know workers who have walked miles in snow to get to the job.

Fair dues to them.

But residents in estates it's currently impossible to get out of need to co-operate to solve that problem right now and prevent it in future.

Businesses need to store a barrel of grit and a sack of salt. We all need to keep Ireland, Inc, moving in bad weather.

Everyone who needlessly takes a "snow day" makes someone else poorer.