Gritting teeth and roads
While the nation braces itself for one of the harshest budgets on record today, attention in recent days has been - to the relief no doubt of a Government under continually crippling pressure - deflected somewhat with that other great Irish talking point, the weather.
The chilling impact of the budget will be felt well into the New Year and beyond and as far as the Government is concerned it could have fairly immediate consequences, should the independents not render key support. Whatever the outcome, it's a certainty that the Fianna Fail led coalition will be sliding out into Oppostion territory within the next few months. And no amount of grit on the electoral roadway will save them.
But while questions continue to be asked of those in charge of of the country's coffers, we should be acknowledging with gratitude the role being played by our own Local Authority in Donegal when it comes to dealing with the second issue uppermost in our minds.
The County Council can be subject to harsh, and occasionally warranted, criticism in relation to its failure to act on other issues but we should doff woolly hats to them for the role staff have played in keeping our main roads as passable as possible in the current cold snap.
Night and day the Council workmen have responded to the atrocious conditions on our roads and have made sure that traffic has been allowed to proceed reasonably freely. It is not, of course, humanly possible, to salt and grit every road in the county - material or manpower is just not sufficient to cover everything.
But as Council personnel pointed out at yesterday's meeting of the Local Authority, the priority roads have been left passable and that's a vital contingency in the battle against the treacherous conditions of ice and snow packed routes.
But stocks don't last forever. Last Thursday, the Council reported it had 1,860 tonnes of road salt in stock - by yesterday this had dwindled down to 600 tonnes. But by Thursday next, the National Roads Authority will boost these stocks by 1,000 tonnes - enough, as Senior Road Engineer, Michael McGarvey indicated, to keep the county requirements going until December 17th.
In all, a total of 24 Council lorries have spread about 4,900 tonnes of salt on our main roads. The task has been at personal risk - no less than five gritter lorries went off the road on Saturday alone due to the icy conditions, followed by another one on Sunday,
It won't, however, prevent the workmen from carrying out their duties in the days and nights ahead, making our roads safer for those who must venture out on them.
The Authority should also ensure that pedestrians are given safe passage and where possible, our footpaths and pavements should be salted and gritted. Businesses and householders can play an important part in this respect by helping to clear the frontages of their premises.
Black ice will still represent a hazard for everyone come hail or high water and it's something we should all be aware if we must venture out at all in the current climate.
Away from the weather, the Government faces its own stretch of black ice as it attempts to push through a budget that could finally see it admitted into political A & E.