Department fends off criticism of its attempts to evacuate stranded citizens
IRELAND'S top Foreign Affairs official last night defended the State's efforts to bring its stranded citizens home from Libya.
As exhausted passengers claimed they had to rely on help from other countries to get home, department secretary general David Cooney said they were attempting to do what no other state was doing -- trying to extract Irish citizens without having an embassy "on the ground" in a situation of chaos.
"When you don't have an embassy on the ground we cannot be there to hold people's hands and help them and to do the kind of things we would like to do," he said.
Fending off criticism that not enough was being done to evacuate the Irish and that many stranded passengers were left to their own devices, he said that countries with far bigger and better resources were encountering difficulties.
Mr Cooney was speaking as a six-member special emergency civil assistance team, led by Ireland's ambassador to Rome, Patrick Hennessy, was due to arrive in Tripoli today to link up with Irish citizens and to arrange their evacuation to Malta.
As Irish people struggled to get home on any flights available, it was revealed that an Air Corps jet with a doctor on board, which had been on standby in Malta, was called to the rescue yesterday to airlift a British woman to London.
A Foreign Affairs spokesman said the women had to have an emergency Caesarean section and needed to be urgently evacuated out of Tripoli. The Irish Learjet was on standby and was used to fly her out to London.
Up to yesterday, there were 26 Irish citizens in Tripoli trying to get home.