Company to face water crisis quiz

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Jack Lewis collects bottled water at the Shankill Leisure Centre, Belfast

The company in charge of Northern Ireland’s faltering water supply is to meet the minister responsible with mounting anger at the way it has handled the crisis.

Senior ministers on Thursday night said some at Northern Ireland Water (NIW) should consider their positions as anger increases over the tens of thousands of people left without supplies.

Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy is et to meet the board of the state-owned company. “I will be seeking assurances that this will not happen again this winter,” he said.

As temperatures plummeted to record lows pipes froze and when the rapid thaw followed after Christmas there was a massive number of bursts.

NIW hopes to have much of Belfast reconnected today but it could be early next week before those in remote areas receive help. Scotland has already provided bottled water and the Westminster Coalition is prepared to provide extra call centre staff, water tankers and engineers.

Ministers have branded NIW’s handling of the crisis as “shambolic” and called for somebody to be held to account.

On Thursday night Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said: “There has to be accountability and we are not going to under those circumstances stand here and make excuses for a body that has so miserably failed our citizens.”

And First Minister Peter Robinson said: “There has to be an accountability for what has taken place and we don’t think anybody could suggest NIW have covered themselves with any glory over the past days and people must assess their position.

He added: “We are not satisfied with the performance and are absolutely determined that it will not be repeated. It has been shambolic at stages, it has been ineffective, it has not been the kind of organisation that has been fit for purpose.”

NIW has pointed to years of underinvestment in the supply network and blamed much of the leakage on private property owners not checking their premises. Millions of extra litres are thought to be gushing out through unidentified leaks.

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