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Minister: Focus now on establishing whether other Irish citizens were killed or injured

NewsBy Shuki Byrne
The blood-stained path inside the grounds of one of the hotels
The blood-stained path inside the grounds of one of the hotels

The Minister for Foreign Affairs has condemned the Tunisian terrorist attack and said the focus is now on establishing whether any other Irish citizens have been killed or injured.

Minister Charlie Flanagan said he "condemns unreservedly" the horrific attacks which occurred in the seaside resort of Sousse. 

"I condemn unreservedly the terrorist attacks in Tunisia, Kuwait and France today. Sadly, I can confirm that an Irish citizen has been killed in the attack in Sousse , Tunisia."

He said the department cannot rule out the possibility there were other Irish citizens either killed or injured in the attack. 

"Our focus is on establishing whether any other citizens have been killed or injured. I would like to offer my heartfelt condolences to the family and loved ones of the deceased. My Department is providing consular assistance to those affected.

"My Department has opened our Consular Support Line following the incident. Anyone with concerns about family or friends or with information should call the Department on 01 418 0200.

"Our Ambassador in Spain is en route to Tunisia accompanied by a consular official and will report to me on arrival. The Embassy in Madrid and our Honorary Consul, in conjunction with EU Embassies in Tunis, are monitoring the situation in Sousse, Tunisia, and are providing updates.

"In light of this incident we are changing our travel advice for Tunisia to ‘exercise extreme caution’. This decision has been taken following consultation with our Embassy in Madrid and contact with our EU partners. For those Irish citizens who are due to travel to Tunisia over the coming days and who now do not wish to travel, they should discuss their arrangements with the relevant travel companies.  

"Irish citizens in Tunisia should remain extremely vigilant and follow the instructions of the police, tour operators, and their hotel staff. As this is a very fluid and fast moving situation our travel advice will be kept under review and we would urge those intending to travel to Tunisia to check the advice before travelling on www.dfa.ie/travel.

"I also want to offer my sympathy and my condolences to the Governments and peoples of Tunisia, Kuwait and France but, above all, to those directly affected. Dozens of people have been killed in these brutal attacks. Attacks like these sow fear and prompt revulsion, but they advance no political cause. 

"Such attacks must be condemned wherever they occur but happening in Europe and on Europe’s doorstep brings their full horror home to us here in Ireland. We must continue to work together for the stability of the Middle East and North Africa, and to address the threats to the people of Europe and the region presented by continued instability."

Elizabeth O'Brien, an Irish woman on holiday with her two sons in the resort, described how she grabbed her children and ran for their lives when they heard gunfire erupting from one of the hotels.

''We were on the beach, my sons were in the sea and I just got out of the sea.

"It was about 12 o'clock and I just looked up about 500 metres from me and I saw a (hot air) balloon collapse down, then rapid firing, then I saw two of the people who were going to go up in the balloon start to run towards me - because I thought it was fireworks,'' the Dubliner told RTE Radio.

"So, I thought 'Oh my God, it sounds like gunfire', so I just ran to the sea to my children and grabbed our things and as I was running towards the hotel, the waiters and the security on the beach started saying 'run, run run!' and we just ran to our room, which is like a little bungalow."