Leading article: Northern Ireland's burst pipes

Share
Related Topics

The board of Northern Ireland Water is reported to be reflecting on how it has handled the present emergency.

As well it might. More than a week after the first spate of burst pipes, more than 4,000 homes still have no running water, and 24,000 have what is flatteringly described as on-off supply. If such a crisis had happened on a comparable scale in, say, south-east England, we suspect that the central and local authorities might have expressed their concern rather more forcefully than their Northern Irish equivalents have done so far.

As recent air travellers well know, crises come in two stages. There is the initial "act of God" – heavy snow, an exceptional freeze – then there is the response. But the two are rarely unconnected. Some airports were better prepared than others, treated stranded passengers better and returned to normal sooner. So in Northern Ireland: if unusually low temperatures caused the freeze, the scale of pipe-bursts that accompanied the thaw speaks of neglected infrastructure and the dilatory and patchy response testifies to lamentable preparation. It was unfortunate that disaster struck just as the long holiday period began, but emergencies have a habit of arriving at the least convenient times. This is what contingency planning is for.

If there is any mitigating factor it is that Northern Ireland has had much else to think about since the end of direct rule. Infrastructure renewal was probably not at the top of the list – something that may well be about to change. But the extent to which the Stormont government has stood back, leaving the water company to carry the blame, raises the perennial question of where the buck stops.

NI Water is not a privatised utility, it is a state-owned company. The devolved government hires its executives – and fires them, as it did last spring over a tendering scandal. The blame game is only just beginning, and compensation claims will be huge. But money should not be allowed to buy off accountability.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

(Senior) IT Support Engineer - 1st-3rd Line Support

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful IT service provider that has bee...

Wind Farm Civil Design Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principal Marine Mechanical Engineer

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principle Geotechnical Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A Russian hunter at the Medved bear-hunting lodge in Siberia  

Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

Oliver Poole
Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

How has your club fared in summer sales?

Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

The best swim shorts for men

Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable