Berkeley balcony collapse: Politicians unite - ‘Hearts and minds go out to the families’

Taoiseach Enda Kenny led Dáil tributes to the six students who died in the Berkeley tragedy.

Berkeley balcony collapse: Politicians unite - ‘Hearts and minds go out to the families’

TDs suspended normal parliamentary business in order to express their horror and regret at what happened in California.

Mr Kenny said he was saddened and shocked to hear of the loss of life.

“My heart breaks for the parents who lost children this morning and I can only imagine the fear in the hearts of other parents, who have children in California this summer, as they seek to contact them now.

RELATED STORY: Updates: Six Irish victims of Berkeley balcony collapse named.

“It is truly terrible to have such a serious and sad incident at the beginning of a summer of adventure and opportunity for so many young people on J1 visas in the United States.”

The Taoiseach said America’s ambassador to Ireland, Kevin O’Malley, telephoned him to offer condolences.

Police officers examine the scene. Charlie Flanagan has confirmed that the Irish students who died were  in California for the summer on J1 working visas.

Mr Kenny said the ambassador had met many of the J1 visa holders at a special function at his residence in Phoenix Park before their departure to the US.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said that the Dáil was united in grief.

“Our hearts and minds go out to the families, particularly the parents,” he said.

“Their young children have had their lives taken from them in their prime and in the beauty of an American summer as they looked forward to spending a great number of months there, as so many Irish have done before them.”

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams expressed his “deepest sympathy” for the families involved.

Independent TD Finian McGrath, speaking for the technical group, said the tragedy had touched all Irish families.

“It is an horrific day for those families and a very sad day for the parents,” he said.

Tánaiste Joan Burton said the situation was every parent’s worse nightmare.

“My heart goes out to the families of the Irish students who died tragically in Berkeley early,” she said.

“Hearing news like this about a loved one far away would be any parent’s worst nightmare. I will be monitoring the situation with regard to those who have been hurt in the incident and I sincerely hope that those being treated for serious injuries will make a recovery.”

The US ambassador, Kevin O’Malley, expressed sympathy to the families, loved ones, and friends of those who died.

“All of us at the United States embassy are greatly saddened by news of this tragic incident and are ready to do whatever we can to assist the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs at this difficult time. We will continue to co-ordinate as more details become available,” he said.

Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness added his condolences over the tragedy.

Police sealed off the area. The balcony broke off from the building and partly landed on a balcony on the floor below it as well as in the street.

“Shocking news of the deaths of several young Irish people in a tragic accident in California. My heart and sympathy goes out to their families,” he said.

Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan said the country’s diplomatic resources on the US West coast were doing everything they could to deal with the situation and liase with the families involved.

Earlier he confirmed the tragedy involved students who were in the US state for the summer on J1 working visas. “It’s an appalling tragedy, an appalling loss of life for young people whose hopes and dreams of the future have suddenly and without notice been shattered,” he said.

All of those who were killed or injured are believed to be aged between 20 and 22.

Investigations by local police in the university city are centring on how many people were on the balcony when it collapsed.

Mr Flanagan said: “There are a number of other students in the apartment at what I understand to have been a 21st birthday party who have been injured. They are being treated at a nearby hospital.”

The complex in Library Gardens off Kittredge St was built in 2006.

Pictures showed that the balcony appeared to have broken off from the building and partly landed on the third-floor balcony below as well as in the street.

The accident happened after midnight local time, eight hours behind Ireland time.

President Michael D Higgins, who heard of the tragedy while on an official visit to Italy, also expressed his regret.

“I have heard with the greatest sadness of the terrible loss of life of young Irish people and the critical injury of others in Berkeley, California.

“My heart goes out to the families and loved one’s of all those involved. I have been informed of the consular assistance being provided to assist all of the families involved and I have asked to be kept informed as further details emerge.”

Archbishop Eamon Martin, primate of all Ireland, said he was praying for the families of victims during their “profoundly painful” time.

“Like many others, I am shocked and deeply saddened to hear the reports of the tragic deaths of five Irish students earlier today in Berkeley, California,” he said.

“This devastating news will be felt by Irish people everywhere, and particularly by those who have family and friends abroad.”

Archbishop Martin said he was also praying that the injured students would recover.

He added: “The death of a child or young person is the worst news that a parent can receive.

“At this profoundly painful time I pray for those who have died, and ask also for prayerful support for their grieving families, fellow students and loved ones.”

RELATED STORY: Updates: Six Irish victims of Berkeley balcony collapse named.

More in this section

Puzzles logo
IE-logo

Puzzles hub

Visit our brain gym where you will find simple and cryptic crosswords, sudoku puzzles and much more. Updated at midnight every day.

Puzzles logo
IE-logo

Puzzles hub

Visit our brain gym where you will find simple and cryptic crosswords, sudoku puzzles and much more. Updated at midnight every day.