Thursday 21 September 2017

Irish in Berlin: 'People in Germany have been expecting this'

A German police officer guards a truck at a Berlin Christmas market following an accident on Breitscheidplatz square. Photo: REUTERS/Christian Mang
Jacintha Murphy (26) from Wexford, who has been living in Berlin for two years, was at a Christmas market just 15 minutes away.

Chai Brady, Laura Larkin and Amy Molloy

Irish in Berlin were reeling following the horrific crash which saw a lorry plough into the Christmas market outside the landmark Kaiser Wilhelm memorial church.

Cillian McDonagh, an Irish student who works in a bar in the German capital, says there are systems in place in to make sure all Irish people are accounted for during any potential attack.

He is involved with the Berlin GAA club and says the club made direct contact with all members to make sure everyone was okay.

“There are over 100 members in the GAA club and we also gave information to the Irish Embassy,” he told the Pat Kenny Show on Newstalk.

“It is the best place to live in Europe which is why I suppose it was such a target.

“People in Germany have been expecting this because Germany has been the leader of the free world.

“The lifestyle people have here is envied all over the world. In many ways, people were expecting this to happen and it’s good that it wasn’t worse than it was.

“People have been trying to keep as calm as possible and not to panic. Berlin people are very tough. They have been through a lot in the last hundred years. Berlin has built up an attitude where they kind of just get on with their lives and they don’t let things like this affect them.

“From what I can see this morning walking around the streets, people are calm; people are going about their daily business.

“Police have now launched a raid on a refugee shelter which is actually near where Berlin GAA club train every Saturday.”

Nathan Young (23) from Derry is currently on holiday in Berlin with his girlfriend Claire.

The couple had visited the market earlier in the day and were enjoying a drink in the Irish Pub in the Europa-Center when the truck collided with the market.

"I think people are in shock," he said. "We were in the bar and didn't hear any loud noises or anything.

"When we went outside the street was cordoned off with fire brigades, police and ambulance everywhere.

Eileen Thornhill from Cork has been living in Berlin for 26 years. She works in The Irish Times Pub and became aware of the attack when friends and family suddenly started calling the bar.

"We all started getting phone calls asking if we were all right and then we turned on the news and saw what was happening," she told the Irish Independent.

"We are all shocked and in a state of disbelief. I don't know what to say. But German people are very resilient and good at coping".

The collision is being treated as a suspected terror attack and Ms Thornhill drew comparisons with the Nice massacre that occurred on Bastille Day, claiming the lives of 86.

"The market is always filled with tourists and the fact that it happened near Christmas and a holiday makes it more tragic. I suppose that's why they choose holidays to make the biggest impact possible."

She said she became slightly concerned over her security last week when police in the southwestern city of Ludwighshafen confirmed they were holding a 12 year-old boy in custody suspected of trying to detonate explosive devices at a city Christmas market. It is not known if the two incidents are connected.

The incident in Berlin is the latest in a string of attacks in Germany over the past 12 months.

On July 24, a Syrian suicide bomber injured 15 people in an attack on a music festival in Ansbach. During the same month in Munich nine people were killed by an 18-year-old gunman.

Jacintha Murphy (26) from Wexford, who has been living in Berlin for two years, was at a Christmas market just 15 minutes away.

She felt that a terrorist attack was in some ways inevitable. "There was a large police presence gathered within a short time where I was (Christmas Market at Schloss Charlottenburg) and a lot of emergency vehicle activity even though I wasn't in the immediate vicinity.

"People didn't seem overly panicked where I was though. My friends i was with and I were just checking in with family and friends once we heard."

"The Polizei have done a good job at keeping at bay until now but it was only a matter of time.I wasn't very shocked. Something of this sort was bound to happen in Berlin at some stage," said Jacintha.

Shauna Sheridan (20) from Blanchardstown, Dublin works in the Irish Pub with her boyfriend Alex Gutte (21), who is from Berlin.

Shauna was Christmas shopping for her family and waiting at Ernst-Reuter-Platz for a bus when ambulances sped past. "We spoke to a Spanish man who had just come from the market and he said there were people screaming and running away."

"Apparently we just missed the whole situation by five minutes. We arrived home 10 minutes later to see it all over the news."

Richard Clarkson (20) from Brighton was in an Irish bar with his friends on the street near were the incident happened.

He said: "I just walked out and I saw the truck, the windscreen was broken, I didn't see any bodies they were very quick to cover them up I think."

"The word terrorist is being thrown around a lot at the moment and people seem scared."

Last night Minister of Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan extended his condolences to the families of those who had lost their lives.

"I am horrified by the loss of life in Berlin this evening," he said. "Our thoughts are also with those injured in this appalling incident. Ireland stands in solidarity with Germany.

Irish Independent

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