No benefit of hindsight is required to point out the terrible state of Northern Ireland’s water supply network. Under-investment has been highlighted by everyone (and his dog) for decades and yet successive direct rule administrations, the Strategic Investment Board, and the devolved institutions have done precious little to resolve the problem.
And now tens of thousands of people are without water and Northern Ireland – because of a few days of frost – is making national news headlines. Like some third world country a sizeable percentage of the population has no water supply and the reservoirs are literally leaking like sieves.
However, the pointing of blame, by MLAs and politicians, at NI Water, should ring hollow in the context of an Executive commitment to continue water under-investment for years to come.
The draft NI budget, announced just over a week ago, made a commitment not to introduce water charges for four years. This commitment comes at a time when the Executive has been moaning about central government cuts to the NI infrastructure budget.
The Executive could easily have committed to investment in water infrastructure by agreeing to a modest water rate. Instead it chose to turn a blind eye – in a matter typical of an Executive that considers populism more important than anything else.