The Irish government has announced a state of emergency as the arctic weather continues unabated. The country has been on the receiving end of these treacherous weather conditions for the last 20 days.

It is the worst weather in almost fifty years and has paralyzed the country, shutting businesses, schools and government offices.

Residents in many parts of the country have been locked in for over a week, while there are major fears about the welfare of old people and those living alone.
Irish meteorologists issued a severe weather warning yesterday saying that outbreaks of snow, sleet and rain are expected in the northwest and west of the country. Up to 6cm of snowfall is expected.

Police will be forced to close a number of major roads over the weekend as supplies of salt to keep them open finally run out.

The  National Roads Authority  (NRA) has aid that "hard choices" would have to be made on which roads will stay open.

"Hard choices have already been made and the focus has been on the main national routes, which carry most of the traffic," an NRA spokesman said.

"Now that supplies are running so low, more hard choices will have to be made.

"That call (to close roads) has to happen at the local level from police and the local authority."

Meteorologist Gerald Fleming told The Irish Times, “We have had almost three weeks of it now and we don’t see a significant thaw coming for the next six or seven days. The last cold spell like it was in 1963.”

The government was pressurized by opposition parties to implement the National Emergency plan. The government has been  criticized for reacting slowly to the crisis.

Ireland's Prime Minister Brian Cowen has announced that the National Emergency Response Committee will convene on a daily basis until the weather subsides.

Meteorologists say that a daytime thaw will not happen for at least another seven days.

The committee will co-ordinate operations to restore access to schools and will also monitor health and food supplies. The committee’s actions will be overseen by Minister John Gormley's Department of the Environment and Local Government.