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 Header Item Business of Dáil
 Header Item Order of Business
 Header Item Deaths of Irish Students in California: Statements

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 883 No. 1

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Business of Dáil

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Before proceeding to the Order of Business, I notify the House of a change in the running order of the matters selected for the Topical Issue debate. The matters raised by Deputy Pat Deering; Deputies Brendan Smith, Gerry Adams and Pádraig Mac Lochlainn; Deputies Mary Lou McDonald, Michael Conaghan, Dara Calleary, Joe Costello and Eamonn Maloney; and Deputies Fergus O'Dowd and Éamon Ó Cuív will be taken in that order.

Order of Business

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny It is proposed to take No. 38, Teaching Council (Amendment) Bill 2015 - Order for Report, Report and Final Stages; No. 1, Children (Amendment) Bill 2015 [Seanad] - Second Stage; No. 15, motion re Offences against the State (Amendment) Act 1998; and No. 16, motion re Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009.

  It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that, in the event that a division is in progress at the time fixed for taking Private Members' business, the Dáil shall sit later than 9 p.m. and adjourn at the conclusion of Private Members' business which shall be No. 71, Employment Equality (Amendment) Bill 2015 – Second Stage (resumed), and which shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 90 minutes; Nos. 15 and 16 shall be taken at 6.15 p.m., shall be debated together and shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after one hour and 15 minutes and that the following arrangements shall apply: the speech of a Minister or a Minister of State and the main spokespersons for Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and the Technical Group who shall be called on in that order and may share time shall not exceed ten minutes in each case; the speech of each other Member called on shall not exceed ten minutes in each case and such Members may share time; and a Minister or a Minister of State shall be called on to make a speech in reply which shall not exceed five minutes; and immediately following these proposals on the Order of Business, the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and the leaders of Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and the Technical Group, or a Member nominated in their stead, shall be called on to make a brief statement on the Berkeley tragedy, following which the sitting shall be suspended until 2.30 p.m.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett There are three proposals to be put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with the late sitting agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with Nos. 15 and 16 agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with statements on the Berkeley tragedy agreed to? Agreed.

Deaths of Irish Students in California: Statements

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny We are all shocked by the loss of life and injuries in Berkeley yesterday. It is shocking to think such beautiful young people, full of joy, excitement and hope, who had only recently set off on a summer's adventure, died so tragically. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of Ashley Donohoe, Olivia Burke, Eimear Walsh, Lorcán Miller, Niccolai Schuster and Eoghan Culligan. Seven young people remain in hospital, some of them critically injured.

Yesterday the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Charles Flanagan, established a consular emergency centre, which dealt with almost 500 calls. This morning a team of officials is at Dublin Airport to assist the families who are travelling, while the emergency response telephone line remains open to provide support, advice and assistance for concerned families. The families of the deceased and injured will be met on arrival in San Francisco Airport by our local consular team which will assist and support them, together with a number of volunteers who will offer assistance. The Department was in touch with each of the families of the deceased and injured yesterday and each has been assigned a designated liaison officer to help with the practical aspects of the very difficult and emotional journey ahead.

In San Francisco the Irish consul general in the area, Mr. Philip Grant, has been extremely active in liaising with families, supporting students and working with the local police and authorities. He has established an incident centre at the city hall in Berkeley with the assistance of local authorities and local Irish community groups. Additional staff have been provided by the Irish consuls in Boston and New York for families who travel though these cities. A number of hospitals have organised grief counsellors who will be available at the incident centre at Berkeley city hall.

It is terrible to have such a serious and sad incident take place at the beginning of the summer's activity and an opportunity of which so many young people avail via the J1 visa programme in the United States. I encourage families who have remaining concerns about loved ones who might be affected by this terrible tragedy to make contact with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade's consular response team, the telephone number of which is (353) (01) 4180200.

I thank the leaders of the various parties in the House for their support in this matter and solidarity with the families and friends of the deceased and injured. As I indicated, I propose to dispatch the Minister of State with responsibility for the diaspora to act a Government presence in solidarity with the families and young people in San Francisco.

Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton For the families who have lost sons and daughters in Berkeley, there are no words. Words wash away like water. This tragedy brings us together, as families and as a community, both here and in America, to mourn the loss of these wonderful, beautiful young people. On behalf of the Government and the Labour Party, I express my deepest sympathy to the families and friends of Olivia Burke, Lorcán Miller, Eimear Walsh, Eoghan Culligan, Ashley Donohoe and Niccolai Schuster. We are also thinking of those students who were injured in Berkeley and their families and friends. We pray that they will recover from their injuries.

  The consul general in San Francisco will provide every possible support and assistance for the families. As the Taoiseach said, the Government and all parties in the House stand ready to assist in any way we can. The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Charles Flanagan; the Minister of State, Deputy Sean Sherlock; our ambassador in the United States, H.E. Anne Anderson, and the consular staff are doing everything to put dedicated services in place which may be of some assistance to the families and friends of the deceased and injured at this difficult time.

  I still recall the excitement of travelling to the United States for the summer as a student with a J1 visa. I know what the experience is meant to be and so many people who have had it, including family members, relatives and friends. Such a trip is meant to be a rite of passage, an opportunity to gain valuable life and cultural experience in a country, the United States, that is dear to all our hearts. For a lot of young people, it is a summer of love and fun. When we look at the faces of the deceased in the snapshots on social media and in the newspapers, it brings home to everybody what those days are meant to be.

  Today six families are heartbroken, their children wrenched away from them in the most dreadful of circumstances. They all received that terrible telephone call during the night or day when, presumably, just before their children had been texting to say how well they and their friends were getting on. Since learning about what happened, I cannot help but think of the W. B. Yeats poem which reflects on old age and begins as follows:

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,

And nodding by the fire, take down this book,

And slowly read, and dream of the soft look

Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep

It is the utmost tragedy that six young people's lives have been lost when their eyes, as we see from the photographs, were still soft and their promise so great. We will do whatever we can to support their families in these circumstances.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin As I said earlier, every Irish family is thinking about the families of the students who were killed so tragically in Berkeley yesterday and the families of those who were injured. In that context, it is important that the national Parliament reflect the sense of deep grief and sadness felt across the country and overseas where Irish communities reside.


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