Storm Ophelia: Childminding crisis for parents

A fallen tree closes the Malone Road in Belfast as Storm Ophelia hits NI
A fallen tree closes the Malone Road in Belfast as Storm Ophelia hits NI

Thousands of parents were forced to take the day off work on Monday to look after their housebound children as NI schools closed amid health and safety fears.

One of those parents, Cathy Fitzgerald from Lurgan, said she was disappointed Northern Irish decision makers had not taken as much pre-emptive action as their southern counterparts.

She said authorities in the south were “on top” of the situation on Sunday having announced a red weather warning and the closure of schools.

Cathy said: “Meanwhile in Northern Ireland there were no updates right up until 11pm when it was announced that schools ‘should’ close – leaving confusion at the 11th hour.”

She added: “That was some amount of feet dragging – did they think Ophelia would be stopped by the customs in Newry?

“I’m just very surprised at the lack of organisation and urgency up here compared to the Republic of Ireland. Maybe the lack of a government impacted on the lack of decisions and lack of information.”

Belfast woman Maxine Black was another of the many parents who took on childminding duties.

On the issue of the school closures she said: “Does it really matter if it’s short term notice? Surely it’s better to keep our kids safe. After the devastation across the world I’m just glad sensible precautions are being made – even if it doesn’t turn out too bad.”

Some parents took to Twitter to vent their frustration.

@maryclarex1 tweeted: “Conflicting messages from individual schools planning to open. Just not good enough.”

@LockTrev said: “What sort of advice is that to give? Wishy washy. Make a decision and get it out asap!”