Clash over use of Army to grit roads

 

THE ARMY WAS not deployed to clear or grit streets in the capital during the recent cold weather because the National Emergency Response Committee decided against sending in troops, Dublin city manager John Tierney has told members of the city council.

The assertion, contained in a report on the city’s response to the cold snap, would appear to be in conflict with Minister for Defence Willie O’Dea – who is also chairman of the Government’s Office of Emergency Planning – who told the Dáil last week that “all assets, resources and capabilities of the Defence Forces throughout the country were made available to provide assistance as required”.

Thousands of motorists faced delays during freezing conditions earlier this month and many more were forced to leave their cars overnight in the city. Side roads were particularly affected as shortages of salt ensured that only national routes, main bus corridors and heavily trafficked roads were passable.

Responding to questions in the Dáil last week Mr O’Dea said the Army had been available for a wide range of operations to assist State organisations, from the HSE to local authorities, but he maintained the local authorities “were very slow in asking for any assistance. They did not appear to appreciate that the crisis was a local crisis to be dealt with at local level.”

Mr O’Dea pointed out that the Army had responded positively to requests for assistance for help in “the gritting of roads and junctions, at the request of the local authorities, in counties Kildare, Meath, Leitrim”.

But Tierney told councillors: “We have been asked why the Army has not been called in to help within the city. I am representing the County and City Managers Association on the National Emergency Response Committee and attended meetings on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and again today. We raised this matter but this is a countrywide issue and Army resources are limited when spread across the entire country and when rosters are taken into account. Therefore the committee decided that it was best to retain Army resources as much as possible to assist with health services and rescue services. Only very limited Army resources have been used for gritting around the country.”

A spokeswoman for Mr O’Dea said the line manager in charge of the National Emergency Response Committee was Minister for the Environment John Gormley. A spokesman for Mr Gormley said no request had been made by Mr Tierney who, he said, had raised the issue for the purposes of a discussion.