Irishman witnesses ‘utter tragedy’ on Westminster bridge

An Irishman who narrowly escaped being directly caught up in Wednesday’s terror attack in London says he was thinking of the crew of Rescue 116 helicopter when he came onto the scene on Westminster Bridge.

Irishman witnesses ‘utter tragedy’ on Westminster bridge

Michael Kingston, a native of Goleen in West Cork and now an international maritime lawyer based in London, recalled the events of Wednesday as Minister for Foreign Affairs, Charlie Flanagan, confirmed that an Irish person was injured in the attack, after British Prime Minister Theresa May had earlier told the Commons that an Irish national, understood to be a woman, was among those hurt.

Tánaiste, Frances Fitzgerald, later said that the injuries suffered by the Irish person are not life threatening, although the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Irish Embassy in Lonon, the London Metropolitan Police and the UK Foreign Office all said they will not be releasing any further details.

Michael Kingston was in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on nearby King Charles Street for a meeting and was delayed by a toilet break and a discussion with someone about a faulty chair when he witnessed Wednesday afternoon’s carnage.

Yesterday he said that while he was walking towards Westminster Bridge he had been thinking about the crew of Rescue 116, piloted by Captain Dara Fitzpatrick, as he was preparing a speech to be delivered on Thursday at a conference on safety at sea and wanted to dedicate it to the missing Coast Guard members.

Reflecting on the incident and comparing it with the tragic deaths of the helicopter crew off the Co Mayo coast last week, he said: “I thinking about them as I was approaching those lights. You have those who save life and give their lives up, and those who mow people down and take life.”

Mr Kingston, who has lived in London since graduating from UCD in 1997, said Ireland’s representative to the Bonn Agreement - an international effort to limit sea pollution - is the Irish Coastguard and dedicated his talk to the memory of Captain Fitzpatrick, Mark Duffy, Ciarán Smith and Paul Ormsby.

Afterwards, he recalled how on Wednesday he had been delayed following his FCO meeting in part because he was discussing his talk scheduled for Thursday.

“I witnessed utter tragedy and I would like to just say: Do not leave to tomorrow what you can do today. ”

Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Mr Kingston, whose father, Tim, died in the Whiddy Island disaster, spoke of a “chaotic silence” around Westminster in the immediate aftermath of the attack.

“It was quite clear something majorly serious was happening,” he said. “Policemen were shouting ‘he’s gone in there’. I understood at that moment it was an attack, probably a terrorist attack.”

He said he saw “bodies strewn around” and as he crossed the bridge he ushered those coming towards him to go back as there had been an attack.

Mr Kingston has already spoken to British police and said he knows “this country inside out” and that such an attack seemed “inevitable”. He said security services have done “incredible work” in preventing other attacks and added that Ireland is not shielded from the prospect of similar incidents taking place.

“This could happen in Ireland and we need to be very clear about that,” he said.

Patrick Culhane, originally from Mungret in Limerick and currently studying at the University of Sheffield, was among those caught up in the Houses of Parliament lockdown. The student visiting party remained in Portcullis House for almost six hours, with Patrick, 25, saying he could see people fleeing the incident and describing the mood as “surreal and confusing”.

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