Which “officials” were “summoned” to Stormont this morning by Martin McGuinness, and in what capacity the Northern Ireland deputy First Minister was acting, isn’t entirely clear – as we only have a Sinn Féin press release to go on. But the “stocktake meeting in the morning at NI Water” mentioned here by the relevant Minister, Sinn Féin’s Conor Murphy, seems to have been pushed back into the afternoon as a result.
What we do have is a joint OFMDFM statment today
In a joint statement the Ministers said: Our officials have been in daily contact with NI Water and the Civil Contingencies Group was operational over the Christmas period. Given the difficulties that are apparent we have decided, as an Executive, to look at how the response to the current situation can be improved.
We have also spoken to the Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond and have accepted an offer of 160,000 litres of water which should be here today.
NI Water’s response was clearly inadequate and we are now looking urgently at what further measures can be taken to alleviate the problems people are facing. At our request, officials spoke overnight to NI Water and we have now sent civil service staff to provide support in their call centre. We have also asked the Head of the Civil Service to continue to work with the Civil Contingencies Group in advance of the Executive to discuss the emergency response. As priority we have asked that group to look at how communication to the public can be improved.
Which with the NI deputy First Minister now telling the BBC that…
“My focus is on how NI Water can do things better over the course of the next number of days,” [Martin McGuinness] said. [added emphasis]
…is not exactly a vote of confidence in the Minister responsible, Sinn Féin’s Conor Murphy.
On Monday the NI Regional Development Minister stated
“I have been receiving on-going updates from NI Water on how it is dealing with interruptions to water supplies across a number of areas as a result of the ongoing thaw.”
And yesterday Conor Murphy was telling the media that
Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy said he had been in contact with NI Water about the problems.
“I have been speaking to the chief executive of NI Water and they have assured me that they are working flat out to try and resolve all of these problems,” he said.
“They have issues with contact because the volume of calls that has come in has put them under severe pressure.
“I have been constantly in touch with them to try and reassure myself that they’re doing everything in their power to try and address this issue.” [added emphasis]
Additionally, from a UTV report yesterday
“[NI Water] have been dealing with around six times the normal number of calls,” Mr Murphy told UTV.
“I’ve spoken to the Chief Executive and they are bringing in more resources, and more will be added tomorrow. NI Water has struggled to cope, but they have an action plan on the ground.” [added emphasis]
The question for the Northern Ireland Regional Develeopment Minister is at what point did he realise that NI Water’s “action plan”, and his own assessment that “they’re doing everything in their power to try and address this issue”, was inadequate?
Assuming he did…