The mother of a Northern Ireland teenager who went abroad on holiday has told how her family have been left feeling “victimised” after police ‘dressed like spacemen’ arrived on her doorstep to question her son.
ara Flanagan from Enniskillen said that her son, Aidan (19), has been in quarantine since returning during the early hours of Sunday morning.
Despite not flouting the rules, she insists her son and family have been subjected to an online “witch hunt” based on misinformation and false rumour.
Aidan had spent a week on a popular island destination with two friends. One was from England and another from Northern Ireland, who later tested positive for Covid-19 and who was supposed to be self-isolating and had breached quarantine rules.
Tara, who is also self-isolating, said she has been left “traumatised” after a police officer arrived at her home around 11.30pm on Tuesday evening.
The officer, accompanied by a colleague, then proceeded to question her son, who was placed under caution, she claimed.
She explained that she believes the police were acting on misinformation, namely that Aidan had been out with his friend in the pub, in breach of the regulations.
However, she said that Aidan urged the officer to check the CCTV of the pub which would prove he was not there. Tara said the officers then left and they have not been in touch since.
There was a massive knock at the door. I went to the window and all I saw was basically a man in what I could describe as a spacesuit. It was like something out of NASATara Flanagan
The PSNI has defended its use of PPE, including protective clothing and face masks, which had alarmed the family, insisting it has a “duty to protect its officers and the community”, adding that complaints regarding the conduct of officers can be made to the Police Ombudsman.
The mother of two said Aidan has been in quarantine since arriving home during the early hours of Sunday morning. She explained that he has only left once to travel in his car to a drive-thru Covid testing facility to undergo a test, remaining in his vehicle the entire time.
The 46-year-old revealed the test result was positive, but said her son was asymptomatic.
She praised her son’s decision to get tested, saying he acted responsibly and in line with guidance.
Currently anyone arriving into Northern Ireland from certain specified destinations overseas are required to quarantine for 14 days. Anyone who fails to comply risks a fine.
On Thursday a leading doctor warned that too many people returning from holiday believe they do not have to quarantine if they are tested and receive a negative result.
Recalling the police visit, Tara said: “There was a massive knock at the door. I went to the window and all I saw was basically a man in what I could describe as a spacesuit. It was like something out of NASA.
“There was nothing to indicate that he was a police officer. He was waving something at me and the next thing again he’s banging on the door really loudly.
“I was traumatised by the way they turned up the way they did. It took me a good hour to settle myself afterwards.”
Tara said the online backlash directed at Aidan’s friend, who failed to self-isolate, was also affecting her family, insisting that some of the comments were “complete lies”.
“The backlash has been brutal. We feel like we’ve been victimised. He’s done the right thing. He’s a very sensible lad. He got the test off his own bat because he thought it was the right thing to do,” she added.
She referred to one social media comment which appeared to make physical threats.
“One person had commented that they need to be pulled from their houses, the house burned and then stoned.
“I think they may be referring to the other boy, but they could be extending that to us,” she added. “It’s just horrifying. We did the right thing. How many people come back home from holiday and don’t isolate? They don’t follow the rules, they don’t get tested.”
Tara added that now she wants the PSNI to clarify the situation regarding the caution.
“He’s really concerned that it would go on a permanent record that he’s got a caution for something that he hasn’t done.
“Aidan’s a trainee electrician and this could affect him getting work. I want his name cleared.”
Fermanagh and Omagh District Commander, Superintendent Clive Beatty said: “The safety of our officers and keeping people safe is of paramount importance to us.
“On that basis, when our officers are tasked to respond to, or deal with an issue in relation to Covid-19 we have a duty to not only protect our officers, but we also have a duty to protect the community and all those we may come into contact with.
“This means that officers dealing with Covid-related issues wear appropriate PPE, which can range from a face mask and gloves to full protective equipment.”