Sunday 4 December 2016

'Why are terrorists coming after us?' - Irish mother in Brussels speaks of her children's fear after terror attacks

Published 23/03/2016 | 10:20

Passengers are evacuated from the train in a tunnel near
Maelbeek metro station. Photo: @evanlamos/Twitter/PA
Passengers are evacuated from the train in a tunnel near Maelbeek metro station. Photo: @evanlamos/Twitter/PA

An Irish mother living close to Brussels' Maelbeek station where a bomb killed at least 20 people has told of her fear for her family following yesterday's attacks.

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Sinead Tiernan was walking to work when her husband Micheál O Conchuir called her to tell her about the first 'explosions' at Zaventem airport.

It was in a meeting afterwards where "nobody was actually paying attention as they were all on social media" that she learned of the attack at Maelbeek station.

"The meeting stopped and there was just chaos in the room," she told RTE Radio 1 in a recorded interview.

"People were warning me not to leave, that it might not be safe, but I just had a very strong sense of needing to get home and see my kids [who are on Easter holidays].

"I just got out of the building but they shut it down and shut everybody in." 

Blown out windows are seen at Zaventem Airport in Brussels after coordinated bomb attacks on the airport and the Metro system brought terror to the Belgian capital.. Photo credit: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire
Blown out windows are seen at Zaventem Airport in Brussels after coordinated bomb attacks on the airport and the Metro system brought terror to the Belgian capital.. Photo credit: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

Sinead describes her "surreal" experience when she entered the street of "noise and panic".

"I just thought 'this is a city I've lived in for 20 years, a civilised city' and suddenly it was just chaos and panic and fear.

"I wanted to run home but I thought I would look too suspicious running, so I walked a very long way around through a park to get home.

"The sense of relief to be at my front door and see the kids here was absolutely phenomenal."

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Micheál, Secretary General of the European Alliance group in the Committee of the Regions, spoke of their surprised relief that non of the couple's Irish friends, some of whom would have been at the airport and the Metro at the time of the attacks, were uninjured.

"With the high density of people working in EU institutions that are Irish it is surprising that there hasn't been people that we have heard of [among the injured].

"But all Irish here travel quite a bit - we know the airport and the Metro well - we can visualise the carnage there.

"The metro was leaving Maelbeek and next thing you had an explosion within a carriage - and all of us travelled in that carriage, all of us have been there."

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Sinead said that the Irish community in Brussels has been "rocked and shaken" by the terror attacks.

"I think we're all really rocked and shaken by this. We had friends who were in the airport... they're all physically fine but they are absolutely traumatised. Young seven, eight or nine year olds seeing things they should never see.

"My own kids were saying to me, 'when did we start to live in a country of war' and 'why are the terrorists coming after us?'

"As foreigners here, we have an option to go home. And while we have lived here for 20 years, at times like this you do wonder if you're doing the right thing.

"You feel the worry being here has on [your family] as well as the worry you have yourself.

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