Taoiseach praises Irish priest who helped Berkeley victims

The Irish priest who comforted students in the immediate aftermath of the Berkeley apartment tragedy has urged families not to let what happened prevent their children from travelling on J1 trips to America.

Fr Brendan McBride, who helped those in need after the balcony collapse in California, last year, made the comments as he said those who lost their lives “will always be connected to us”.

Speaking at a 1916 commemorative tree-planting ceremony in Washington DC’s Capitol Hill, in which he was lauded by Taoiseach Enda Kenny for his actions, the Donegal-born priest said that, one year on from the horrific June 16 tragedy, the events continued to play heavily on his mind.

However, he said that, despite the loss of life, parents who are concerned that their own children could be at risk if they travel to the US on a J1 this summer must put their fears to one side.

“Parents will always worry, but you have to allow them to go,” he said.

“Most people will tell you, they dip their toes in the States through the J1 programme.

“This was an horrific tragedy, but I don’t think parents would want their kids not to have the opportunity to see what the States is all about,” he said.

Asked about the families of the six Irish college students who died when a balcony in their apartment collapsed under them last year, Fr McBride said they were always on his mind.

He said the victims of the tragedy “will always be connected to us” and said the memories continued to cause pain. “It’s a really tough time for the families, because they are living with it all year. You feel for the families. We have an anniversary mass and event [next month] and it helps the community to gather. They need to be with their own around that time. I do get emotional, sometimes, thinking about it, because it draws you back into the pain of the parents. I get emotional and sometimes can’t talk about it.”

Taoiseach Enda Kenny praised Fr McBride for the key role that he played in the aftermath of the tragedy last year and praised the priest for his “extraordinary Christianity and humanity”.

He told Fr McBride “you did your nation proud”, as he planted a tree on Washington DC’s Capitol Hill grounds, in honour of those who died in 1916.

Speaking at the event on Wednesday, Mr Kenny told Fr McBride — who was appointed to bless the tree planting event — he provided comfort to those in need when they needed it most.

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