Sunday 18 March 2018

Irish tourists caught up in Turkey chaos told to exercise caution

A man wrapped in a Turkish flag walks past a military vehicle in front of Sabiha Airport, in Istanbul, Turkey. REUTERS/Baz Ratner
A man wrapped in a Turkish flag walks past a military vehicle in front of Sabiha Airport, in Istanbul, Turkey. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

Wayne O'Connor and  Cormac McQuinn

Irish holidaymakers in Turkey have been advised to exercise a high level of caution amid a failed coup that has seen more than 260 people killed.

Almost 3,000 soldiers have been arrested following the bloodshed caused by the unsuccessful bid by elements of the Turkish military to oust President Tayyip Erdogan from power.

There were violent clashes in the capital Ankara, as well as Istanbul, as Mr Erdogan urged the people to resist the coup.

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan called for restraint and respect for the democratic institutions in Turkey but said his first concern was for the safety of Irish people in the region.

Travel industry sources estimated the number of Irish holidaymakers in the country at as many as 300.

The Department of Foreign Affairs was last night continuing to monitor developments in Turkey and warned that the situation in Ankara and Istanbul remains tense.

Mr Flanagan advised Irish travellers to avoid all non-essential travel to the country and to consider the ongoing fluid and unsettled situation locally. "My first concern is for the safety of Irish people travelling to Turkey and those who are already in Turkey.

"Many thousands of Irish people holiday there each year," said the minister.

"Until the situation is calm, we are strongly advising Irish citizens planning to travel to Turkey to avoid non-essential travel."

Mr Flanagan's department confirmed no Irish people were caught in violent scenes on Friday night and early yesterday morning as military officials briefly took over the country, promising to remove the controversial Turkish president and restore democracy later.

However, Irish people are continuing to face severe disruption, with Irish flights to and from Istanbul cancelled yesterday.

A Turkish Airlines flight to Dublin from Istanbul was cancelled yesterday with the city's airport remaining shut until 9pm last night.

Two outbound flights from Dublin were also cancelled yesterday.

A spokesperson at the Department of Foreign Affairs advised passengers to make alternative arrangements to get home and follow the advice of tour operators or airlines.

"Irish holidaymakers tend not to go to Istanbul but to places like Izmir and Bordrum in the south west, so Irish travellers are located at a substantial distance from these issues," they said.

"Nonetheless, vigilance is required in tourist areas such as Taksim Square in Istanbul and locations close to police and military installations, which may be targets for terrorist attacks.

"There has been serious disruption to public transport, including international and domestic air travel.

"Passengers are likely to experience disruption and delays, and are advised to stay in touch with their carrier airlines or tour operators."

The Irish embassy in Ankara is providing consular assistance on the ground in Turkey.

"We have had enquiries coming in but it is mainly to do with the travel concern and disruption," the spokesperson said.

Sunway travel agents, which sells holidays in Turkey, said that they were in contact with the Department of Foreign Affairs and were monitoring the political situation there.

"Everything is business as usual in the popular resorts. Places like Kusadasi and Izmir will be unaffected by the ongoing situation," said a spokesperson. They also warned tourists to stay away from areas like Taksim Square where trouble may flare.

Sunday Independent

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