Saturday 20 April 2019

'I live three minutes away and locked myself in the house' - fear among Irish community after Christchurch shootings

'The Muslim community are just like us. They're foreigners in this country... we're devastated for them'

John Menary left Louth for New Zealand
John Menary left Louth for New Zealand

Mícheál O'Scannáil

Christchurch remains in shut-down and the Irish community there have been left in fear after a gunman labelled immigrants “invaders”, before killing 49 people on Friday.

Brenton Tarrant, a 28-year-old Australian man, appeared in court in connection with the terror attack, which saw 49 people shot dead in two Christchurch mosques and a further 42 left injured.

There is a large Irish community in the radius of the Masjid al Noor mosque in central Christchurch, where 42 people were killed, and the mosque in the Linwood neighbourhood, where another seven were shot dead by the gunman.

Speaking to the, manager of the local Irish bar ‘The Bog’, John Menary from Co Louth, said that fear spread throughout the Irish community following the attack.

Prior to the attack, which was broadcasted on Facebook, the gunman condemned immigrants, labelling them “invaders”. Mr Menary said that the Irish immigrants in Christchurch empathise with their Muslim counterparts. 

“Yesterday scared me. I live three or four minutes from where the shooting happened and I locked my door. I have never felt that way in New Zealand before,” he said.

“The community has been affected really badly. I manage the local Irish bar so I’m part of a community and it’s St. Patrick’s weekend and it’s all cancelled. We all met this morning, all of the Irish communities and the GAA clubs all came together and we walked a certain distance and laid flowers and we’re shocked.

“The Muslim community are just like us. They’re foreigners in this country just like we are. We’re Irish and we’re foreigners in this country too. The way we look at it, we’re a community, they’re a community, and if there were 49 Irish people shot dead, we would be absolutely devastated and we’re devastated for them.”

Mr Menary, who left Dundalk for New Zealand two years ago, said that Christchurch is at a standstill as the local community absorbs what was the country’s worst-ever terrorist attack.

“I left Ireland two years ago to live here, and I had never felt safer in my whole life. Yesterday I felt so unsafe and I just felt so upset. This is my home now,” he said emotionally.

“The whole city is shut down. Every shop is shut down. It’s the biggest massacre in New Zealand’s history. It’s not something that we’re used to so a lot of people are still numb, still not going about their daily business.

“I went into the city expecting things to be just going on like normal, but they didn’t. Everything was still frozen. You’d never ever guess New Zealand to be a terrorist attack country. Some lunatic has just got it into his head as an easy target. I don’t think that Ireland has anything to worry about, I just think it was one lunatic who got something in his head."

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