Belfast Telegraph

Ophelia: Day Northern Ireland shut down as storm forces widespread closures

By Kate Buck, Linda Stewart and Cate McCurry

Northern Ireland ground to a halt yesterday as Storm Ophelia approached, with even the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service forced to close all its offices for the first time in recorded history.

The Lord Chief Justice deemed it too dangerous for staff and court users to travel in the forecast weather conditions and duly closed the courts from 1pm.

Meanwhile, every school in Northern Ireland announced their closure at short notice, after the Department of Education advised schools and colleges not to open yesterday in a Tweet posted after 10pm on Sunday.

Queen's University Belfast defended its decision to remain open until noon yesterday, despite government advice to close.

In a statement, a Queen's spokeswoman said the safety of staff and students was "paramount", adding: "After fully considering the facts around Storm Ophelia, Queen's University Belfast closed from 12 noon as a precautionary measure."

Some of Northern Ireland's most popular visitor attractions also closed their doors on the howling winds, and many people heeded warnings not to venture out unless essential - leaving streets and roads in many towns and cities eerily deserted.

The National Trust announced that its north coast sites, the Giant's Causeway, Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, Portstewart Strand, Downhill and Cushendun beach, would be closed to the public due to the storm; Castle Coole, Crom and Florence Court in Fermanagh also remained shut yesterday. The Trust's properties at The Argory, Springhill and Ardress closed at noon.

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) announced that its forest and country parks were closed to the public.

Meanwhile, Parliament Buildings at Stormont closed at 1pm with no public tours taking place after that. The SSE Arena in Belfast closed in the afternoon. Titanic Belfast closed at noon and Titanic sister ship SS Nomadic closed for the entire day.

The Ulster Museum announced that due to the closure of Botanic Gardens, and all other Belfast City Council sites, there would be no access to the Weeping Window poppies sculpture after 11am. The Lyric Theatre closed from 1pm, but tickets could still be bought online.

RSPB NI announced that all its offices, including Portmore Lough and Belfast WOW (Window on Wildlife), had shut due to the weather warnings, but WOW at Belfast Harbour was expected to open as usual today.

Sightseeing Belfast, which runs hop-on hop-off open-top bus tours around the city centre, cancelled all tours after 2pm.

Omniplex cinemas announced the closure due to the storm of all of its premises, and all Odeon cinemas were also shut down.

The Queen's Film Theatre (QFT) also cancelled all screenings.

Belfast Telegraph

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