A TOTAL of 242 Irish people died in tragic circumstances while away for holidays or work so far in 2009 – the highest number of deaths abroad ever recorded by the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Among the Irish citizens who lost their lives while travelling were three young doctors who were killed when an Air France plane crashed over the Southern Atlantic in June; Fr Jeremiah Roche who was murdered in Kenya and buried yesterday and Michael Dwyer, who was shot dead in Bolivia in April.
The majority of the 242 deaths abroad were from natural causes or accidents such as drowning. They represent a sharp increase from 204 in 2008 and 150 in 2007.
The Department of Foreign Affairs said it dealt with 1,200 serious incidents involving Irish citizens over the past year which “is set to be one of the busiest on record”.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin said: “The significant increase in deaths abroad and other incidents involving our citizens over the past 12 months is a reminder how important it is for all of us to take precautions before travelling.”
He said: “As we approach Christmas our thoughts are of course will all those who have had to deal with a sudden bereavement over the past year.”
The death toll rose despite a Government campaign launched at the start of last year with a tourist charter entitled: Travel Safely, Slán Abhaile.
Mr Martin urged all holiday makers to take precautions while travelling, particularly around water as “drownings are far too common while abroad”.
“It is essential that everyone travelling abroad has adequate insurance to deal with any emergency that may arise. Also it is important to be aware of local swimming areas, tides etc,” he said.
“In addition it is important to be aware of local laws, customs and traditions. Remember that incidents regarded as minor here at home often carry a heavy penalty in other countries.”
In June, three friends, Aisling Butler, 26, from Roscrea, Co Tipperary; Jane Deasy, 27, from Rathgar, Dublin; and Eithne Walls, 29, from Ballygowan, Co Down died when an Air France Airbus disappeared on a return journey from Rio de Janeiro to France.
Two months earlier, a 24-year-old Tipperary man, Michael Dwyer, was killed in a shoot out in a Santa Cruz hotel. The Bolivian government said he was working for a right wing group and had planned to assassinate President Evo Morales but Mr Dwyer’s family said this suggestion was preposterous.
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