Former tánaiste Ray MacSharry has described the horror of being caught up in the terror attack in the French city of Nice and of seeing dead bodies among the chaotic scenes along the seafront.
Mr MacSharry was holidaying with his partner in the southern French city and had just finished dinner next to the promenade during the fireworks display when crowds began screaming.
Describing the hellish experience to the Irish Examiner, the former minister for finance said he was “lucky” to be alive. He had been having dinner with his partner at a beachfront hotel and knew immediately the attack was terrorist related.
“We were having dinner at Negrescos, at the promenade area, around the time of the fireworks display. Yards away, people were enjoying the fireworks.
“After finishing dinner, I was outside at the hotel door, checking out if there was a taxi to bring us back to our hotel we were staying in. The whole place was thronged with people. But then all of a sudden the main body of people erupted with horror.”
Crowds of screaming people began running by Mr MacSharry and his partner and as they walked on there were injured people on the street, families weeping and worse.
“We started moving back towards our hotel, two kilometres away, in the direction of the airport. There were no taxis. And people began to roar and scream, there were horrific sounds and even gunfire. People were running in all sorts of directions.
“I saw dead bodies lying on the road. The truck had moved down towards the crowds of people. I witnessed distraught families weeping over their loved ones, dead on the promenade.”
Mr MacSharry says he did not realise what was happening and just got out of the promenade area, away from the terror. He now realises the truck that ploughed into the crowds must have gone right by them on the other side of the road.
“We know now the truck went through crowds of people. It was really very sad and horrific. I saw the chaos beside me — there were so many in front of us. It sounded like someone had a machine gun with all the screaming.
“It definitely had gone down the other side [of the promenade]. It obviously had passed down the other side of the road towards the port.”
The night had changed so quickly, said the former TD, who described how the happy scene of “families all over the place with young children” changed dramatically to one full of fear.
“It was a horrific site, unbelievable. And there, dead people on the side of the road. We didn’t know what was going on, but we knew it must be some sort of terrorist attack.”
Mr MacSharry realises the outcome for him and his partner could have been very different if they had stepped outside the Negresco hotel just minutes earlier.
“I feel lucky. We moved off as soon as we saw the horror of what was happening.”
The former European Commissioner described yesterday how Nice woke up to the atrocity.
“The place is on lock down now. Nobody is swimming and there navy boats and ships are patrolling.”
But Mr MacSharry says action needs to be taken by European leaders and others in the wake of the attack which targeted innocent people.
“We need the head of states do something, this can’t be tolerated, these unelected people who are trying to rule the world,” he said.
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