Saturday 1 October 2016

'Please send the LE Eithne to get us' - Fearful tourists desperate to return to Ireland from Tunisia

David Kearns and Alan O'Keeffe

Published 01/07/2015 | 08:34

Helen Kennedy and Ollie Mullen with Mia (9), Ryan (7) and Ava (11) in Tunisia
Helen Kennedy and Ollie Mullen with Mia (9), Ryan (7) and Ava (11) in Tunisia

Two Irish families holidaying in Tunisia are so desperate to leave, they have called for the Irish naval vessel the LE Eithne to be deployed to take Irish citizens home.

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David Jackson, a Luas driver from Lucan in County Dublin, said he and his wife Mary were too afraid for the safety of their two children to let them leave their hotel following a beach massacre in Sousse that left 38 people died, including three Irish tourists.

Read More: Bodies of three Irish terrorism victims expected home today


The desperately-worried father referred to the Irish naval vessel, currently conducting rescue missions for African migrants in the Mediterranean, when he said in frustration: "The LE Eithne is picking up every Tom, Dick and Harry out of the sea. We're taxpayers, citizens, what about us?"

Tourists lay flowers on a beach in Sousse where 38 people where killed last Friday Credit: Steve Parsons
Tourists lay flowers on a beach in Sousse where 38 people where killed last Friday Credit: Steve Parsons

“The Irish Government has a duty to us. The LE Eithne should be sent to collect us,” he said.

Speaking to RTE's Liveline yesterday, Mr Jackson was joined by fellow holiday goer Helen Kennedy, also from Lucan, said her terrified children had barricaded their hotel-room doors at night and asked her if they were going to be killed.

Read More: 'They gunned down a couple waiting for a bus' - Brother of Irish woman killed alongside husband in Tunisia

"We’re stuck here and we’ve no way to get home. This place is deserted. I don’t care what the Department of Foreign Affairs is saying, we’re not safe here. There’s no police around, just two unarmed security men by the hotel door.

“We’ve no assurances that there wouldn't be a second attack."

Ms Kennedy added: “I have my poor children asking me each night if we’re going to die. If they’re safe. If we’re ever going to get home? Every night we’ve the table and chairs up against the door to stop anyone from getting in.”

Read More: 'There was shouting... we just ran to our hotel' - Irish grandparents tell of Tunisia beach attack horror

Mr Jackson and Ms Kennedy (40) later both told the Herald they wanted to leave Tunisia immediately because they felt in danger of attack by terrorists. The two families must wait until Friday to fly home with Just Sunshine.ie

They said a rival operator, Sunway Travel, gave their customers the option of full refunds if they did not want to travel after the massacre.

John Dennis, who owns 91pc of Just Sunshine.ie, told the Herald his Irish company "made an error of judgement. We should have offered a refund and we apologise for that."

But he still refused to fund any earlier flights home for individual customers, stating his small company would have serious financial pressures following the collapse in demand for its Tunisian holidays.

UK operators were in a position to offer flights home because several airlines flew daily between Britain and Tunisia, but his Ireland-Tunisia route only operated once a week, he said.

Read More: 'Both were in great form' - Tragic couple's final phonecall to daughter before Tunisia attack

Both Mr Jackson and Ms Kennedy told RTE Radio One's Liveline programme yesterday that they flew out to Tunisia hours after a gun man murdered 38 people on a beach in the popular resort town of Sousse.

The pair said they were unaware of what had happened in the country several hours before boarding their flight.

The LE Eithne, which is in the Mediterranean sea helping to tackle Europe's migrant crisis
The LE Eithne, which is in the Mediterranean sea helping to tackle Europe's migrant crisis

“As far as I knew, it was a former employee from one of the hotels who wanted to get his own back,” said Ms Kennedy.

“We had no idea what had really happened. I thought it was a once off. We wouldn’t have gotten on the flight otherwise.”

Read More: 'It's so senseless, stupid and tragic' - Irish mother locked herself in bathroom with family when 'gun battle' began

The pair said their hotel was “deserted” and that there was “bus loads of English tourists heading back to the airport each day.”

“The beaches are empty. There’s no one in the hotel. We want to get out. My 14-year-old daughter has been crying ever since we arrived,” said Mr Jackson.

An Irish flag was laid at the three heart-shaped memorials marking where 38 tourists, including three Irish holiday goers, were gunned down Credit: Steve Parsons
An Irish flag was laid at the three heart-shaped memorials marking where 38 tourists, including three Irish holiday goers, were gunned down Credit: Steve Parsons

“The country is done, it’s over. The entire place is a ghost town. There’s no one on the beaches but some local people taking selfies near where that awful attack happened.”

Read More: Should I go ahead with my Tunisia holiday?

Mr Jackson claims he confronted Just Sunshine before he boarded the Friday night flight to Tunisia.

“As the passengers from Sunways [Holidays] were being told they would get a full refund in Dublin Airport, we were being told we would get nothing. I called Just Sunshine and was told ‘if you don’t get on that flight that’s your problem."

Flowers and tributes are placed on Marhaba beach, where 38 people were killed in a terrorist attack in Sousse, Tunisia Credit: Jeff J Mitchell
Flowers and tributes are placed on Marhaba beach, where 38 people were killed in a terrorist attack in Sousse, Tunisia Credit: Jeff J Mitchell

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