60 Irish people died abroad in three months

ALMOST 60 Irish holidaymakers died abroad in the first three months of the year, it emerged today.

Foreign Affairs Minister Dermot Ahern revealed the number of tourists dying oversees is set to double if current trends continue.

Young people, in particular, were warned against the misuse of drink and drugs and to heed travel advice before going on holiday.

Mr Ahern said last year consular staff handled 130 deaths overseas.

“Last year alone, Irish residents made almost eight million trips abroad,” said Mr Ahern. “Today, we are travelling in greater numbers to a wider variety of destinations than ever before.

“Figures for the first three months of 2008 show our staff have dealt with almost 60 deaths of Irish citizens abroad, with a third of these in Spain.

“The vast majority of these would be holiday-makers. The figure for the first quarter of 2008 is worryingly high as we have yet to reach the peak holiday season,” said the minister.

“If that trend continues we are looking at a death toll of up to 300 as numbers dramatically increase during the busy summer months.”

Geographically, 20 people died in Spain, seven in the US, and five in Thailand. Other countries were Irish residents passed away included Italy, Ghana, Fiji, Argentina, Laos, China and the Middle East, revealing the global nature of modern Irish travel patterns.

Two Irish women were killed in a hit-and-run incident in Rome in March.

Mary Clare Collins, 29, from Co Kildare, and Elizabeth Anne Gubbins, 28, from Co Limerick, were knocked down by a car on the Lungotevere Altoviti near Castel Sant’Angelo in the centre of the Italian capital as they returned home from a night out celebrating St Patrick’s Day.

A driver has since been charged in connection with their deaths.

Just weeks earlier convicted criminal, 27-year-old Patrick Doyle from Dublin, was shot dead on the Costa del Sol in Spain.

The minister said his focus has been on improving consular assistance to Irish citizens abroad. But he stressed that despite providing a service oversees, budding tourists, particularly young people, need to exercise caution and heed the department’s advice.

Practical initiatives to protect Irish citizens abroad include the publication of a consular charter and the setting-up of online travel registration.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has also significantly improved its capacity to respond to Irish citizens caught up in emergencies overseas, he said.

“We have responded well and learned important lessons from the tragedies of 9/11, the Asian tsunami and the terrorist bombings in Bali, Egypt and London.

“Exercising common sense, taking sensible precautions and obeying local laws and customs will help ensure the vast bulk of overseas trips will be enjoyable and safe, “said Mr Ahern.

“I would emphasise the risks involved in drug and alcohol abuse, and I cannot emphasise enough the importance of obtaining travel insurance before travelling abroad.

“Failure to take out insurance can lead to considerable financial and logistical difficulties for the traveller and his/her family should problems arise. This applies to weekend trips to London as much as to long periods of overseas travel to distant parts of South America or east Asia.”

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