Coronavirus: People told to ‘catch themselves on’ as crowds congregate

The public have been urged to “catch themselves on” after huge crowds of young people gathered on beaches amid sweltering heat earlier this week.

By Niall Deeney
Tuesday, 2nd June 2020, 6:56 pm
Robert Atkinson, 82, who shielded for 10 weeks, has blasted thousands of people for gathering on beaches
Robert Atkinson, 82, who shielded for 10 weeks, has blasted thousands of people for gathering on beaches

On Monday, police estimated crowds of 1,000 people enjoyed the good weather on beaches in Crawfordsburn and Helen’s Bay in Co Down.

And there were also large crowds in seaside locations like Portrush and Portstewart on the north coast both on Monday and today.

But an Alliance MLA has described the scene at the beach green at Crawfordsburn in Co Down on Monday as “the worst I’ve seen in 10 years of being an elected representative” after hordes of alcohol-fuelled young people descended on the popular beauty spot.

“It was the volume of people of all ages that posed real health and safety issues,” North Down MLA Andrew Muir said.

“People, young and old, have on the whole been great at showing leadership and abiding by the regulations. But to see a crowd of, I would say, about 200 young people – some of them intoxicated and in groups of more than six – was really concerning for both their welfare and for residents.”

Mr Muir added: “There was a skip set fire to yesterday and one resident was reporting to me that someone was defecating in his garden.

“At any time this would be unacceptable, but in the middle of a pandemic people really need to catch themselves on.

“I don’t think you need the government to tell you not to set fire to a skip. There’s an issue about personal responsibility here.”

A man in his 80s who has shielded for 10 weeks has said he is “livid” about those gathering in large crowds.

Robert Atkinson, 82, from Belfast, was paralysed down one side by a stroke and has been treated for prostate cancer.

“I am livid,” he said. “People like us stayed in for 10 weeks and followed the rules and regulations.

“To think that they could actually dismantle everything that we have done.

“I think any sane person would think it is right that they should have thought of other people before social distancing went out the window.”

UUP councillor Norman Hillis, a resident of Portrush in Co Antrim, said people in the area had “conflicted” feelings about the current situation.

“There were lots of people on the beach but it is a large beach and they appeared to be following social distancing, in family groups,” Mr Hillis said.

“I know there is a bit of local concern about all the litter they’re leaving.”