Tunisia attack: Revulsion over terror murder of tourists

Government and opposition parties have reacted with “revulsion” to the murders of 37 holidaymakers, including a mother of two from Ireland, at a beach-side Tunisian resort.

Tunisia attack: Revulsion over terror murder of tourists

Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Tánaiste Joan Burton, Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan, and Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin TDs hit out at the manner of the deaths after learning Co Meath nurse Lorna Carty was among the dead.

Speaking in Brussels before Ms Carty’s death in the Tunisian resort town of Sousse was known, Mr Kenny said what happened must be condemned in the strongest way possible.

Tánaiste and Labour leader Joan Burton expressed her “revulsion” at the “barbaric act”, adding that her “first thoughts are with the family of the Irish woman killed, and the families of all the victims”.

Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin condemned the murders, saying they were appalled at the events and that their thoughts were with Ms Carty’s family, who learned of what happened just after 2.30pm yesterday.

A close friend of the family, Fine Gael TD Ray Butler, fought back tears on RTÉ’s Six One News to explain the nurse had travelled with her husband Declan to Tunisia after being given the tickets by a relative to help Declan in his recovery from recent heart surgery.

“I got the phonecall at 2.30pm from a very close friend of the family,” said Mr Butler. “This was the hardest phonecall I’ve ever taken. My heart goes out to the family who are enduring unthinkable grief.”

It was initially believed that no Irish people were injured in the attack — understood to have been perpetrated by a man posing as a holidaymaker — with reports after the attacks at 12pm yesterday suggesting British, Belgian, and German people had died.

However, by 3pm, the Government had become aware of Ms Carty’s death, before its consular services contacted her family to help break the news.

The first public confirmation that an Irish person was among the dead came just after 5pm, when Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan told journalists: “There has been an Irish citizen involved, a fatality.”

The minister had been due to speak to reporters before a World Bank meeting at 3.45pm. He delayed the move as news filtered through — saying he wanted to “condemn unreservedly the horrific terrorist attacks” in Tunisia, France and Kuwait.

He said he “cannot exclude the possibility of further Irish involvement”, but stressed the Government is doing all it can to comfort Ms Carty’s family and help other Irish citizens potentially still in harm’s way return home.

“Our people in the department have been in contact with the family, the relatives. I cannot exclude the possibility of further Irish involvement, but we are actively engaged in seeking further information.

“Immediately following the atrocity our ambassador in Madrid [the nearest Irish embassy] left for Tunisia.

“Our priority at the moment is with those directly involved, they are remaining indoor2s in the hotel complex. We are working with the families of the bereaved. Our priority will be the safe return of Irish citizens at the earliest opportunity.

“Our travel advice to anybody thinking in terms of travelling to Tunisia is to exercise extreme caution.”

Responding to questions about the tragedy, Mr Flanagan again stressed that anyone thinking of travelling to Tunisia should use “extreme caution” and that he and his officials are working to bring people home.

However, he stopped short of advising against travelling to the north African country, whose economy and therefore stability is dependent on a thriving tourist industry.

The Foreign Affairs Minister confirmed “a number of Irish families” are also in the “immediate vicinity of the hotel and the resort” where the murders occurred, and that officials are now liaising with tour operators to locate every citizen.

He said the situation in the area “was one of carnage” and urged anyone with concerns to contact the department’s helpline: 01 418 0200.

Yesterday’s attack is the second time this year that terrorists have murdered innocent people in Tunisia, with IS claiming responsibility for an assault on a museum in March.

As of last night, no group had claimed responsibility for yesterday’s attack.

Choice of Tunisia as a holiday destination now at risk

Tunisia has long been a popular destination for Irish holidaymakers. That may now change in light of the latest attack, which has left dozens dead and injured.

The Arab Spring began in Tunisia in December 2010 with the self-immolation of a man protesting about police corruption, leading to the Jasmine Revolution.

Within weeks the president had fled the country, but while other Arab nations witnessed an upsurge in violence in the aftermath of various uprisings, Tunisia appeared to remain calm. A state of emergency, first put in place in 2011, was lifted in March 2014.

Tourism continued to play a key role in its economic outlook. Last year the sector accounted for 15.2% of the country’s GDP, directly supporting 230,500 jobs.

Recent figures indicate that two years ago Tunisia welcomed 6.2m tourists. That is a huge number considering the population of the country is just short of 11m.

It is particularly popular with French, German, and Italian visitors. By contrast, an estimated 3,000 Tunisians are believed to have joined IS in the past two years, but the country remained relatively free of serious violence until earlier this year, when an attack at the Bardo Museum in the European-style city of Tunis left two dozen people dead and others injured.

As well as high-class resorts, package deals and being a haven for beach holidays, Tunisia also has a number of important heritage sites, not least the ancient ruins of Carthage.

Other destinations popular with visitors are the Muslim and Jewish quarters of Jerba, and the coastal resorts outside of Monastir.

As for the hotel which was at the epicentre of the attack, the Hotel Riu Imperial Marhaba is a five-star beachfront hotel with views of Port El Kantaoui, which has the ancient Roman coliseum of El Djem and the holy city of Kairouan nearby.

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