Opinion

Contractors were the unsung heroes of the ‘big freeze’

Hats off to all those farm contractors who did a truly heroic job in helping to keep Ireland’s rural road network passable during the recent cold snap.

They, along with many local farmers, put in long hours – using their own machinery – making sure that older people and families living in isolated areas were not cut off from the rest of the world.

Much of this work was carried out on what only can be described as a charitable basis.

This is the unsung work that goes on in rural areas every time there is a crisis to be dealt with.

Whether it’s heavy snow or floods that are causing real problems around the country, farmers and contractors can always be depended upon to give the Government and local authorities a dig-out.

But matters of this nature should not be left to community spirit in this modern day and age.

Every county council should have a list of contractors they can employ to help clear minor roads during periods of heavy snow.

And the people involved should be paid for the commitment asked of them.

Agri contractors should be regarded as a valuable resource during those times when full-time council staff are totally committed to keeping major routes clear of snow and other related jobs.

What happens, for example, if there is a medical emergency at a house in a remote area and side roads need to be cleared in order to provide access for ambulances and medical professionals?

In such circumstances, local contractors could well be the only people with the wherewithal to get the road situation sorted out quickly enough.

It also makes sense for the local authorities to have a list of contractors, which they can access immediately rather than be left in the situation of scrambling around looking for names of people who might be able to do the job.

In an emergency situation, lost time can cost lives.

Thankfully, the snow has thawed and we can all get on with our normal routines. I know that local authorities up and down the country are now reviewing their emergency procedures in light of the experiences gleaned from the recent big freeze.

In my opinion, one of the first things that must be done is for every county council to establish an accredited list of agricultural contractors. These are people they can call upon during those periods when extra resources are really required to keep Ireland’s rural road network clear.