‘Water, water, every where. Nor any drop to drink’ was the comment of the Ancient Mariner who, in Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s epic poem, shot an albatross and thereby brought bad luck, death and destruction to his ship in a storm.
But the thousands of innocent consumers of water in Northern Ireland are totally innocent of bringing about the water shortage in the Province, yet have been deprived of the use of water, a basic human necessity, through the lack of mains water supply.
The GMB, NIPSA and Unite unions representing the water workers have been totally irresponsible as the Northern Ireland government has stood idly by and let the innocent be used as mere bargaining chips and pawns in a dispute about pension provision.
The Stormont Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy has been inept and ineffectual in dealing with the crisis. He should resign. The Chief Executive of Northern Ireland Water, Sara Venning, should likewise be sacked and replaced. Both have shown themselves to be ‘not fit for purpose’ in allowing this farce to develop out of control over a number of weeks.
They should both have seen to it that proper arbitration procedures were put into place from the outset. But above all, they should have seen to it that the essential water supply was maintained.
The workers insisting upon working to rule and refusing to do overtime should firstly have been have been given the option of reconsidering their action, otherwise the additional work should have been given to independent contractors and to military engineers who could have seen to it that any faults were corrected, even if extra staff had to be brought in from outside Northern Ireland.
Just like doctors, nurses and other essential workers, those in the water industry should develop the ethic of maintaining essential services.
Lastly, an inquiry should be held as to why this crisis was allowed to develop at all, and so that measures can be put in place to ensure that it is never happens again.
Shame, also, on the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive for not giving this human tragedy proper attention and priority. Such suffering in the community should never have been permitted to develop in what is a civilised society, which, with proper leadership, should have called a halt to this fiasco on Day One.
Neil C. Oliver