Everyday some of us, maybe all of us, wake up to hear of a major or a minor disaster in some part of the world. Many of these are caused by people. Others are natural disasters. The most important issues are how to cope with them. Do we have the right people there to handle serious situations?
Last year in our own part of the world we were hit by the worst flooding for decades.
Businesses were under water, farmers were unable to get fodder to their cattle and ordinary people were unable to get in or out of their houses.
We had little plans in place to cope with or handle the situation. We had very few people in authority who were capable of doing much because there was never a proper plan put in place to deal with emergencies.
Most people had to fall back on their insurance to cover the cost of the disaster. It was advisable to have insurance we were always told. One of those people I know had their business under water for close on two weeks. It had never happened before.
Since the last flooding in the area a new ghost estate had sprung up in a swamp literally in his back garden, between his premises and the Shannon. The authorities should have known it was a swamp before they gave planning permission.
"That wasn't my job" was the official approach and there was no more said. The businessperson told me he claimed off his insurance for the cost of putting his business back in shape.
Irish life is not always as simple and straightforward as that. When he went to renew his insurance the following year it had doubled in price and guess what they refused to give him cover for - flooding. Some deal and some way of doing business.
This is part of the scene everyone has to put up with because of the inefficiencies of others. Why should they not be held responsible? The reason is if you complain, the person who you will complain to will more than likely is a work colleague of the person who should have been responsible, so where do you go from there?
In recent weeks our country and business ground to a halt due to an inclement weather conditions. We were told in advance that it was coming and when it arrived the weather people told us it would last for a week. So the NRA and other authorities sprung into action. They had one snowplough to cover the city of Dublin.
It wasn't advised to use the snowplough on the streets of Dublin as they feared it would collect more uneven, badly laid manhole covers than snow so that ambitious plan was abandoned. We had thousands of tonnes of salt to grit the roads but we didn't have the money in the kitty to pay staff to spread the stuff, so that plan was downgraded to meltdown.
The NRA has responsibility for our roads, but as their web site says, they can delegate their functions to committees with the approval of the minister. That's the punch line 'delegate duties to committees'. In modern times these have become known as quangos. The NRA comprises of up to 14 high powered members appointed by the Minister for Transport on the basis of experience in relation to roads, transport, industrial, commercial, environmental matters, local government and the organisation of workers or administration.
I'm afraid the minister must have thrown the rule book and regulations of the job out the window when we witnessed the fiasco of works carried out on the M50 and airport roads over the past decade. There weren't many of the above qualifications put to use in the construction or signage systems on those roads.
To make matters worse the NRA had undertaken road signage throughout the country with finger signs directing us into bogs and town lands that maybe two house holders live in, while the roadway to those two houses are littered with pot holes. To make matters worse still, the NRA erect signs behind bushes, trees and telegraph poles in many areas. They often fail to realise that a tree in front of a major road sign will grow faster than the sign.
But, in fairness, you cannot blame the NRA because they probably delegated these functions to committees and by Irish law that's quite acceptable. In other areas road hazard signs, railway-crossing signs, stop signs are often overgrown by grass or hedges. This, in fairness, is not the responsibility of the NRA as they delegated these functions to a committee within the local county council so the NRA responsibilities finishes there even though the board members are directly responsible for the excises of the NRA's functions under the Act.
So in fairness even though it doesn't make sense it's hard to hold the NRA responsible. It's a powerful organisation that cost you and me a lot of money.
Who they are answerable to or who follows up and rectify the mistakes that may cause serious safety issues on our roads and the environment is questionable. These are questions you are not encouraged to ask because you may have to wait a long time for the proper answers. Then again it's probably part of what we are. Maybe someone in some ministry would do the people of Ireland a favour by deleting phrases like 'delegating functions to committees with the approval of a minister' out of our quandros obsessed society and put a small bit of sanity and cop on back where its needed.