Saturday 10 December 2016

Berkeley tragedy: 'When you look at the papers, don't you see the photos of your own children?' - Taoiseach

John Downing and Denise Calnan

Published 17/06/2015 | 11:38

Dáil Eireann was today adjourned as a mark of respect to the dead and injured in Berkeley, California.

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Taoiseach Enda Kenny said Minister for the Diaspora, Jimmy Deenihan, will travel to San Francisco as soon as possible as a gesture of solidarity to bereaved families and the injured.

Five Irish students died as a result of the apartment balcony collapse, as well as one Irish-American citizen.

Seven other students are being treated for their injuries in hospital - two are said to be in a critical condition, while another five students are described as stable.

The Taoiseach said the tragedy had resonated with every family, and parents especially, across Ireland.

“When you look at the newspapers this morning, don’t you see the photographs of your own children?” Mr Kenny mused.

Visitors lay flowers on a makeshift memorial near the scene of a 4th-story apartment building balcony collapse in Berkeley, California June 16, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Visitors lay flowers on a makeshift memorial near the scene of a 4th-story apartment building balcony collapse in Berkeley, California June 16, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Flowers and cards are left for victims from the Library Gardens apartment building balcony collapse in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Flowers are laid at a memorial near the scene of a 4th-story apartment building balcony collapse in Berkeley, California June 16, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Flowers and cards mark a makeshift memorial near the scene of a 4th-story apartment building balcony collapse in Berkeley, California June 16, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Flowers and a framed photograph mark a makeshift memorial near the scene of a 4th-story apartment building balcony collapse in Berkeley, California June 16, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Philip Grant, Consul General of Ireland to the Western United States (R) speaks to the media with Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates (L) following a wreath-laying ceremony at the scene of a 4th-story apartment building balcony collapse in Berkeley, California June 16, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Visitors lay flowers on a makeshift memorial near the scene of a 4th-story apartment building balcony collapse in Berkeley, California June 16, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Philip Grant, Consul General of Ireland to the Western United States (L) helps Neil Sands, President of the Irish Network Bay Area, lay an Irish flag atop two wreaths at the scene of a 4th-story apartment building balcony collapse in Berkeley, California June 16, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Neil Sands, President of the Irish Network Bay Area, pauses for a moment after laying an Irish flag atop two wreaths at the scene of a 4th-story apartment building balcony collapse in Berkeley, California June 16, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Visitors react as they visit a memorial near the scene of a 4th-story apartment building balcony collapse in Berkeley, California June 16, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates (C) stands next to Philip Grant, Consul General of Ireland to the Western United States (L) and Berkeley Police officers before a wreath-laying ceremony at the scene of a 4th-story apartment building balcony collapse in Berkeley, California June 16, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates (L) hugs Philip Grant, Consul General of Ireland to the Western United States, following a wreath-laying ceremony at the scene of a 4th-story apartment building balcony collapse in Berkeley, California June 16, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates (L) participates in a wreath-laying ceremony with Philip Grant, Consul General of Ireland to the Western United States at the scene of a 4th-story apartment building balcony collapse in Berkeley, California June 16, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Neil Sands, President of the Irish Network Bay Area, lays an Irish flag atop two wreaths at the scene of a 4th-story apartment building balcony collapse in Berkeley, California June 16, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates (L) hugs Philip Grant, Consul General of Ireland to the Western United States, following a wreath-laying ceremony at the scene of a 4th-story apartment building balcony collapse in Berkeley, California June 16, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
A man makes the sign of the cross over his heart after laying a bouquet of flowers near the scene of a 4th-story apartment building balcony collapse in Berkeley, California June 16, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Mary Elzy says a prayer for victims of a balcony that collapsed in Berkeley, Calif., Tuesday, June 16, 2015. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, left, listens as Philip Grant, Consul General of Ireland of the Western United States, speaks to reporters in Berkeley, Calif., Tuesday, June 16, 2015. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, left, hugs Philip Grant, Consul General of Ireland of the Western United States, after placing wreaths at the Library Gardens apartment complex in Berkeley, Calif., Tuesday, June 16, 2015. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Toni Mikulka places flowers at a makeshift memorial for victims of a balcony that collapsed in Berkeley, Calif., Tuesday, June 16, 2015. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
A flag of Ireland is draped over wreaths at the Library Gardens apartment complex in Berkeley, Calif., Tuesday, June 16, 2015. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Flowers and a map of Ireland are left at a makeshift memorial for victims of a balcony that collapsed in Berkeley, Calif., Tuesday, June 16, 2015. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, left, hugs Philip Grant, Consul General of Ireland of the Western United States, after placing wreaths at the Library Gardens apartment complex in Berkeley, Calif., Tuesday, June 16, 2015. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, left, and Philip Grant, Consul General of Ireland of the Western United States, walk in front of a building where a balcony collapsed in Berkeley, Calif., Tuesday, June 16, 2015. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Neil Sands of the Irish Network Bay Area places a flag of Ireland over wreaths at the Library Gardens apartment complex in Berkeley, Calif., Tuesday, June 16, 2015. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Philip Grant, Consul General of Ireland of the Western United States, left, and Neil Sands of the Irish Network Bay Area place a flag of Ireland over wreaths at the Library Gardens apartment complex in Berkeley, Calif., Tuesday, June 16, 2015. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Mr Kenny read the names of the six young people who died into the Dáil record.

The Taoiseach stressed that Minister Deenihan’s role will not in any way take away from the excellent work done by the Irish diplomats working in California in the wake of the tragedy which claimed the lives of six Irish students.

 Meanwhile, Aer Lingus has been accommodating affected family members with flights from Ireland California.

"We have been liaising with various Government departments to offer support and assistance to the families of those involved in this terrible tragedy," a spokesperson for the airline confirmed.

"Our North American office has also been assisting those involved with reservations. Our cabin crew are offering support and comfort to those families who are travelling with us. Our deepest sympathies go to the families."

Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin said it was not a day to be doing the ordinary business of politics. He praised the work of Foreign Affairs Minister, Charlie Flanagan, and Ireland’s consul in California, Philip Grant, and his colleagues from the Foreign Affairs Department.

“It’s truly a harrowing occasion and truly a nightmare for any family,” Mr Martin said.

The Irish flag is being flown at half-mast on all State buildings today as a mark of respect to the six young victims.

Read more: Berkeley tragedy: 'I've lost the love of my life and my best friend'

Photos have also emerged of buildings and businesses in the Berkeley area who have hung Irish flags outside their own premises as a mark of respect.

A Book of Condolence will be opened at the Mansion House in Dublin city centre from 10am tomorrow morning.

Meanwhile, the Mayor of Galway opened a Book of Condolence at 11am this morning. University College Dublin has also opened a book of condolence.

In Cork, Lord Mayor Chris O'Leary will open a Book of Condolence in The Atrium, City Hall at 1.15pm today.

Read more: Nation grieves as summer of adventure ends in awful tragedy

The deceased were last night named as Ashley Donohoe (22) from California and Olivia Burke, Eimear Walsh, Eoghan Culligan, Niccolai Schuster and Lorcan Miller, all aged 21 and from Ireland.

The students were studying at UCD, DIT and the Institute of Art Design and Technology in Dun Laoghaire.

Bishop Michael Barber SJ, Bishop of the Diocese of Oakland, California, has been in contact with Archbishop Eamon Martin, Archbishop of Armagh, to offer his condolences following the tragedy in Berkeley yesterday.

Bishop Barber expressed his sorrow to Archbishop Eamon that this tragedy occurred and offered an assurance of continued prayers for all those affected.

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