Taoiseach slams swimmers who ignored warnings during Storm Ophelia

Earlier, the housing minister said he was "furious" that people risked their lives

Taoiseach slams swimmers who ignored warnings during Storm Ophelia

Dare devils run out to a diving board Salthill, Galway, Ireland. Picture by: Niall Carson/PA Wire/PA Images

Updated 19.25

The Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he is willing to consider making it a crime for people to endanger the lives of emergency crews.

It comes after two incidents during Storm Ophelia on Monday that almost cost the lives of members of the emergency services.

A red weather warning was issued during the storm, and the Government had advised people to stay inside and avoid coastal areas during the heavy winds and rain.

However, photos and videos shared on social media showed some people swimming or windsurfing in the sea during the storm.

Photos from Salthill in Galway also showed people on the pier despite the dangerous conditions.

Speaking in the Dáil earlier, Mr Varadkar backed the call for those who needlessly put themselves in danger to be prosecuted for endangering first responders:

"Not only did those people who disobeyed the safety warnings put themselves at risk, they also put the lives of the emergency services at risk too," he said.

"We had two incidents yesterday which almost cost the lives of members of our emergency services and we were that close to there being many more fatalities than occurred yesterday."

And speaking Tuesday evening in Co Meath, Mr Varadkar said he is willing to consider making it a crime.

Section 13 of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act states: "A person shall be guilty of an offence who intentionally or recklessly engages in conduct which creates a substantial risk of death or serious harm to another".

One man who went for a swim at Salthill while the warning was in place told Newstalk reporter Henry McKean what prompted him to do it:


It comes after the Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy said he was "furious" that people unnecessarily risked their lives during the Storm.

Speaking to Newstalk Breakfast, he said: "We were in here trying to coordinate the emergency response to this, to make sure people were safe. We were doing everything that we could to try and protect people from the danger that this storm was causing.

"The idea that people went and put their own lives at risk, and at the same time then tie up vital emergency services to go and help those people... It really wasn't something that we were happy that we were seeing."

He added: "In the course of yesterday, people were asking questions about what is the sanction for these people, and what can be done... I think that is something that is worth looking at."

He noted that there will be other severe weather in the future, and that it will be vital to ensure people understand they are unnecessarily tying up emergency services if they put their lives at risk.