Ireland is set for a white Easter after the coldest March for decades.

Many sports fixtures were cancelled last weekend, including the Northern Ireland-Russia World Cup soccer match which was called off twice in 24 hours at frozen Windsor Park in Belfast.

Given the arctic-like weather conditions in Ireland, maybe Taoiseach Enda Kenny was well advised to extol his appreciation for Irish rain on foreign soil, which he did in Seattle last week.

He told a reception for the Irish-American community, and businesses in the city, “There is a lot of rain in Ireland, and I have a line about it that I have developed. Number one, it is acid-free. Secondly, it is good for your complexion. And thirdly, it is anti-wrinkle in its effects.”

No way, to repeat a much-used Irish expression, was it “a soft day’s rain” in Ireland last week. Instead, the rain, sleet and snow pelted down in below-freezing temperatures. A large area of Cork city and some of the surrounding county was flooded.

Cork Chamber of Commerce chief executive Conor Healy said businesses were “very much losing patience” with authorities. 

“Businesses in Cork have been badly impacted by flooding and it’s happening now on a fairly regular basis. This is where the authorities need to step in and recognize that there is a serious problem,” he said.

A seven-year-old child died after being airlifted from Midleton, Co. Cork, to the Children’s Hospital in Crumlin, Dublin in a critical condition, after he fell into the Owencurra River when playing football with friends on a housing estate.

His friends raised the alarm after he was quickly swept downstream because the river was in flood. A local man managed to rescue the boy from the river, and emergency services tried to resuscitate him. He died within 24 hours in hospital.

The Irish Cancer Society said the weather had a “devastating” impact on its annual Daffodil Day fundraising initiative.

Restaurants Association of Ireland chief executive Adrian Cummins said the flooding had been “a disaster” for his industry.

There was major disruption across Northern Ireland caused by unseasonably wintry conditions, and 100,000 homes were left without power after overnight snowstorms and winds of up to 50 miles per hour.

More than 70 schools and scores of roads – mainly in Antrim, which bore the brunt of the hazardous conditions in the North – had to be closed.

The runways at George Best Airport in Belfast and Belfast City Airport were closed twice for snow-clearing. Many flights from both were delayed as well as ferry sailings from Belfast and Larne.

Widespread weather reports said the big freeze would continue through the week and there was likely to be a White Easter in several parts of Ireland.