Northern Ireland water chief quits after huge supply cuts

The collapse of water system was acutely embarrassing for Northern Ireland.

Belfast: The head of Northern Ireland`s under-fire water supplier announced his resignation on Thursday after thousands of homes in the British province were deprived of water for days.

Laurence MacKenzie, chief executive of state-owned Northern Ireland Water (NIW), said he was quitting after freezing weather followed by a rapid thaw damaged pipes and sparked the crisis in the run-up to Christmas.

At its peak, 40,000 people in the province were without supplies and there were long queues in the streets to collect fresh water at distribution centres.

MacKenzie, who had come in for fierce criticism over his handling of the crisis, said it was entirely his own decision to step aside.

"I readily accept and recognise that there were aspects of the way in which we handled the situation that could have been better," he said.

"In particular, our ability to communicate with our customers and let them know the reasons for -- and the times at which -- they were going to be taken off supply."

His resignation, announced after an NIW board meeting, is effective from Friday.

The water system is up and running again following the breakdown, after engineers worked round the clock for days to repair it.

But the collapse of the vital infrastructure was acutely embarrassing for Northern Ireland, and led to Scotland coming to the province`s aid by shipping in lorry loads of bottled water.

NIW was heavily criticised for failing to handle the deluge of calls that came from the public at the height of the crisis, with the province`s First Minister Peter Robinson describing the water company`s response as "shambolic”.

Bureau Report