People ‘deserve pat on the back’ for response to ‘Beast from the East’

Lewis, Alfie, Bobby and George Stronge and their friend Rhys Tate clearing snow for their neighbours at Campbell Court, Maze.
Lewis, Alfie, Bobby and George Stronge and their friend Rhys Tate clearing snow for their neighbours at Campbell Court, Maze.

Heavy snow and freezing winds wreaked havoc across Lisburn and surrounding areas last week as the ‘Beast from the East’ and Storm Emma blasted Northern Ireland.

But despite the blocked roads, traffic chaos, school closures and disruption to some public services, the extreme wintry weather also had a positive side - showing that community spirit is alive and well in the local area.

Pat Catney MLA (left) and friends helped clear snow from the front of a house in Ballinderry Upper where a pensioner had taken ill. A friend of the sick 70-year-old man posted a plea for help on social media, fearing an ambulance wouldn't be able to access the property if needed.

Pat Catney MLA (left) and friends helped clear snow from the front of a house in Ballinderry Upper where a pensioner had taken ill. A friend of the sick 70-year-old man posted a plea for help on social media, fearing an ambulance wouldn't be able to access the property if needed.

People rallied to the aid of stricken motorists, check on housebound neighbours and to clear roads and footpaths in many residential and rural areas.

Lagan Valley MLA Robbie Butler said the people of Lisburn and surrounding areas deserve “a well-earned pat on the back” for their response to the big freeze.

“I would like to thank all those who put their shoulders to the wheel during the recent winter storm. Facebook was used extensively to mobilise community groups in areas like Ballymacash, Hillhall and the Low Road, with squads of locals equipped with spades, shovels and buckets spreading grit and clearing snow from roads and paths. Local farmers also helped to clear lanes where grit lorries don’t access and local schools also benefitted with teams of parents ensuring that Monday wouldn’t be another school day lost to the weather.

“I would also like to thank staff at the local roads depot who under extreme pressure facilitated extra grit drops in areas most affected. Perhaps the adverse weather had a silver lining.”

Digging in: A group of parents, organised by Karen Orr, got together to clear roads and paths around Killowen Primary on Sunday morning.

Digging in: A group of parents, organised by Karen Orr, got together to clear roads and paths around Killowen Primary on Sunday morning.

The leader of the DUP group on Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council, Alderman James Tinsley, said the good community spirit was particularly evident in rural areas, which suffered the worst of the weather conditions as the strong winds caused deep snow drifts.

“There was a lot of great community spirit shown during the bad weather - people bringing neighbours food and supplies, farmers and people with diggers clearing roads and driveways, allowing people to get in and out and freeing up access for emergency crews. There was a lot of this, particularly in rural areas where the snow blocked a lot of roads,” he said.

SDLP MLA Pat Catney was praised on social media after helping to clear an access route through deep snow at the front of a house in Ballinderry Upper where a pensioner had taken ill.

Mr Catney had responded to a plea for help posted on social media by Debbie Deboo, who runs Chronically Fabulous - a campaign that provides free professional makeovers and photoshoots to people with long-term illnesses or disabilities.

While playing down his own efforts, Mr Catney said there were many stories of people having shown great community spirit during the bad weather.

“In these dark times of politics where it seems to be failing us all it was a great lift and really encouraging to see how the people of Lisburn and the surrounding countryside came together and helped each other through it. We have to try to harness that community spirit for the better for all of us,” he commented.