Brent Pope: New Zealand's 'innocence lost' following mosque shootings in Christchurch

Shocked family stand outside the mosque following a shooting at the Masjid Al Noor on Deans Avenue in Christchurch. Photo: EPA/Martin Hunter

New Zealand native Brent Pope gave a heartfelt and emotional reaction to the news of the mosque shootings in Christchurch today.

The rugby analyst said New Zealand was always known as a safe and welcoming place.

"It's actually rocked the country to its knees," he said on RTÉ Radio 1.

"I think the apt description for my country is 'innocence lost'. New Zealand has always been revered as a safe country, as a country somewhat stuck back in the old ages in a sense - you don't have to lock your house, you don't have to lock your car.

"I grew up in Christchurch, all my friends are in Christchurch. I grew up in a multi-racial society that embraced differences in culture and differences in colour."

He described hearing of schoolchildren being in lockdown.

"I'm getting reports back from children, schoolchildren are in lockdown, people aren't going anywhere, they're not allowed out. You can tell from my voice I'm really just shaken up about it."

Mr Pope said he grew up in the area near one of the shootings and he last passed through there when he was home for Christmas recently.

Brent Pope
Brent Pope

"I grew up in that area. I would have driven past that very mosque maybe two months ago, Christmastime I was back home.

"I know a lot of people that live in that suburb, especially the second mosque in Linwood, a suburb I'd know well.

"Christchurch is my city and it's always been regarded by the people that have travelled over there as the more sleepy of the cities. Christchurch has always been regarded as a really safe place."

He said he is saddened that his friends and neighbours are now living in fear.

"People have gone through enough trauma and now for them to live in fear is just shocking. The world has come to New Zealand"

He thanked the Irish people for the support shown to him today.

"The outpouring of love and support to me from the Irish people has just been overwhelming. I know people appreciate it."

Former Irish rugby player Ronan O'Gara lives in New Zealand and is the current coach of the Crusaders who are based in Christchurch.

He says it has been an extremely difficult day.

"Of all the cities in the world, Christchurch has had its own adversity with earthquakes but the people are very resiliant and very nice, and now this out of the blue," he said.

The boys are shook, no doubt about it. Everyone is shook.

"Hard to know in terms of what to do, where to go to. I suppose that's what shock is.

"It's obviously very raw at the minute. People are just kind of keeping to themselves in the team environment.

"I'm not from there, obviously, but it's a lovely city and when you live there it becomes your home. It's been a very surreal day."

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