Sunday 24 June 2018

Thrill-seekers wade into a storm of controversy

Joe Duffy
Joe Duffy
Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

We're very quick to slag off our ruling classes for screwing up, especially when they do it before, during or after some sort of national crisis. Which, let's face it, they often do.

So it was with happy heart that, this week, we saw the opposite. Storm Ophelia - or Hurricane Ophelia, or whatever it was eventually called - hit Ireland, and the official response was damn good.

Emergency services were locked and loaded. All reasonable safety measures had been put in place beforehand. And everyone was well-warned, well in advance, and given clear, precise instructions throughout on what to do or not do. They played a blinder, actually. So, for once: well done, Official Ireland.

Radio played a blinder too - I was glued to the nationals and my local, Clare FM - giving us all that vital information, updated pretty much by the minute. And once the storm had passed, many of us turned on Tuesday to that lodestone of Irishness, the place where the national conversation is loudest and most vital: Liveline (Radio 1, Mon-Fri 1.45pm).

The roof being torn off a GAA clubhouse in Wexford. Warnings of rogue tradesman offering to fix your property. Heart-warming stories of stranded and homeless people getting help. And of course, a good row.

It was sparked off by Leo Varadkar's angry statement about irresponsible people who went out in the elements - some going so far as to swim in storm-tossed seas - and thus endangered the lives of emergency services honour-bound to come to their aid.

Joe Duffy spoke to Colm Murphy, member of both the Irish Kitesurfing Association and - in his day job of fireman - the emergency services themselves, about windsurfers near Dundalk, which resulted in a rescue boat and gardaí being called out.

They were, Colm said, "very experienced windsurfers" who had "checked and risk-assessed their site" and decided there was "a good two-to-three hour window deemed reasonable." He and fellow kitesurfers, meanwhile, "had deemed it a no-go area".

Murphy added: "In my opinion, the windsurfing conditions were perfect, ideal…based on huge amounts of experience and having a good back-up system in place." But he also agreed that "resources are being stretched" when people do things like this.

One listener to The Last Word (Today FM, Mon-Fri 4.30pm) wasn't quite so sanguine. During a discussion on whether or not "people who needlessly endanger themselves and others during storms should be prosecuted", Matt Cooper read out this texted comment: "Windsurfers, swimmers and all should be handed a full bill for call-outs, High Court-enforced. That'd make the clowns think before forcing volunteers into danger unnecessarily."

We also heard a clip of Niamh Fitzpatrick - sister of Captain Dara Fitzpatrick, the Coast Guard helicopter pilot tragically killed earlier this year - who was "incensed" when she heard reports of "people being out and about".

Over on High Noon (Newstalk, Mon-Fri 12pm), host Kieran Cuddihy took a different tack. Referencing a Charlie Weston article in this paper - that "storm thrill-seekers" should be punished and made to pay the cost of their rescue - Cuddihy said he "totally disagreed".

He went on: "You cannot punish people for idiocy. By all means name and shame them, they should be ridiculed, and the brave men and women of the emergency services deserve better. But as for punishing them, where do you draw the line? Should people driving to the shops be prosecuted? Do you punish a hillwalker who twists their ankle when they knew the terrain would be rough? … It's populist nonsense and a slippery slope."

No pun intended, presumably.

Indo Review

Entertainment Newsletter

Going out? Staying in? From great gigs to film reviews and listings, entertainment has you covered.

Editors Choice

Also in Entertainment