Belfast Telegraph

Ophelia: Punish idiots who flout safety advice, urges MLA

By Eamon Sweeney

Those who ignore emergency service safety advice during extreme weather should be punished for reckless behaviour that endangers others, an Assemblyman has said.

Ulster Unionist Doug Beattie said he "absolutely" backed the idea of holding such people to account.

He was speaking after people were filmed and photographed taking dangerous risks during the worst of storm Ophelia on Monday.

"What people need to understand is that, firstly, nobody wants legislation like this, but there are stupid people in society that also put others at risk," Mr Beattie said.

"They put emergency services staff at risk by their actions, so they should be held to account."

Throughout Monday thrill-seekers flouted advice to stay safely indoors as high winds and rain lashed Northern Ireland.

People were pictured walking along the pontoons at Warrenpoint Harbour (left) and climbing on roofs in Coleraine as winds approached 80mph.

Others broke safety cordons in Londonderry, defying advice to stay away from the Peace Bridge.

"If people deliberately ignore advice, then because of that services have to be deployed. If that's the case, those responsible should be costed for it," Mr Beattie argued.

"When people are made accountable for their actions, they might be deterred from acting stupidly, which we saw a lot of on Monday.

"Someone always has to pick up the pieces.

"When people act stupidly, people die."

His call came as the Taoiseach warned that sea swimmers who take to waters during red storm alerts could potentially face fines in the future.

Making such exploits a criminal offence "merits consideration", Leo Varadkar said.

"People who disobeyed the red alert and travel warnings yesterday didn't just put themselves at risk, they also put at risk the lives of other people - particularly our emergency services," Mr Varadkar added.

Belfast Telegraph

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