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Jake O'Kane: With its stupid signs, Belfast City Council is spoiling one of the city's greatest beauty spots

The council's new signs are placed right on top of the hill, which can mean only one of two things – either Cave Hill rocks deny Newton's law of gravity by falling upwards, or the rocks in question are in fact meteors falling from the sky

By placing this stupid signage, Belfast City Council has perpetrated an act of vandalism worse than any delinquent with a spray can
Jake O'Kane

WHEN did we become so stupid that we need reminded that hot water burns, touching electric cables causes electrocution or that we shouldn’t exit a bus until it has stopped moving?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against necessary warnings – as a coeliac, I know all too well the importance of information about allergens in food. I can also see the need, for example, for warnings about hungry sharks inhabiting the waters I’m considering having a paddle in.

But do we really need warnings about the dangers of falling rocks? Surely even the dimmest in our society realise head-butting a falling rock is disadvantageous to their continued consciousness, if not very life. Yet, Belfast City Council has decided such a danger exists on Cave Hill, and has erected ugly warning signs, spoiling one of the city’s greatest beauty spots.

As a regular hiker up the hill, I was visually assaulted by the monstrosities when they appeared last week. I’ve been up that hill for over 50 years and not once have I heard of a person hit by a rock. Growing up in the shadow of Cave Hill in north Belfast during the Troubles, getting hit by a rock was an almost everyday occurrence, yet I can’t remember council signage warning of low-flying bricks.

But here’s the the rub – the council’s signs are placed right on top of the hill. This can mean only one of two things – either Cave Hill rocks deny Newton’s law of gravity by falling upwards, or the rocks in question are in fact meteors falling from the sky. The one thing beyond doubt is that by placing this stupid signage, Belfast City Council has perpetrated an act of vandalism worse than any delinquent with a spray can.

We live in a nanny state which views its citizens as imbeciles incapable of walking up a hill, traversing a street or operating a lift without strict instructions. Surely being an adult entails knowing sharp things will cut and that it’s a very bad idea to stare directly into the sun?

We live in a nanny state which views its citizens as imbeciles incapable of walking up a hill 

Indeed, I’d argue the proliferation of such inane warnings tampers with an important facet of Darwin’s theory of evolution, namely survival of the fittest. I’m sick of the plethora of television adverts about idiots who drive without seat belts, or worse, drunk. They’ve made their choice and in doing so prove they’ve nothing to contribute to the evolution of our species and, by their stupid actions, have self-selected to vacate the planet.

Another explanation for the proliferation of official warnings is that we now live at a time when there is no such thing as an accident – somebody is always to blame – which translates into ‘there’s always a claim’.

Nowhere is this more obvious than in the dramatic inflation in the price of our car insurance. A friend was pulling out of a side road when the car in front braked suddenly, resulting in him shunting into it. Details were exchanged but as neither driver could see any damage to their cars, due to the low speed, my friend went about his way, presuming he’d hear no more.

He was wrong. A week later his insurance company informed him the other driver had reported whiplash and had filed a personal injury claim. My friend was incensed that despite his strenuous assertion the claim was fraudulent, due to the low speed of the impact, his insurer still settled.

It’s common knowledge that insurers almost always settle in such circumstances as they calculate that doing so is less expensive than risking the costs of a court case.

I’ve no doubt the driver who benefitted from the fraudulent claim thought, ‘Sure it’s the insurance company who’s paying’. But that’s a convenient lie – the truth is we all pay, especially young drivers in Northern Ireland whose biggest expense today isn’t their car but the insurance for that car. And if you’re reading this and you’ve put in a fraudulent claim then know this – you’re a thief, no better than someone who steals from a shop.

And so with public liability claims coming a close second to motor claims, every council and public body attempts to cover against any potential danger, irrespective of how unlikely. But rocks falling uphill? Seriously?

Belfast’s new lord mayor is also a north Belfast man – I wish him well during his year in office and would beg him to remove these ugly, unnecessary signs. I promise, if I’m hit by a meteor, I won’t claim.

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