Ceann Comhairle proposes ecumenical service in Dáil Chambers for Berkeley victims

Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett has called for a joint Dáil and Seanad ecumenical service to be held in Dáil Chambers in memory of the Berkeley victims.

Ceann Comhairle proposes ecumenical service in Dáil Chambers for Berkeley victims

Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett has called for a joint Dáil and Seanad ecumenical service to be held in Dáil Chambers in memory of the Berkeley victims.

Six students died and seven are being treated in hospital after the balcony collapse. Two are said to be in a critical condition.

"I was just thinking it would be a nice idea if we joined with our colleagues from the Senate and had a short ecumenical service in the chamber here, which I think would be very fitting that the Oireachtas would, you know, together, express their sympathy," he said.

"So maybe you could consider an ecumenical … and I think it would be nice to have it in this chamber, where we would be joined by our colleagues from the Seanad."

The Dáil held a moment's silence and was been suspended until 2.30pm this afternoon in memory of the victims.

Politicians also paid tribute to the victims, reading the names of the six who died into the Dáil record.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny led messages of condolences to the parents, families and friends of those affected by the tragedy while a minister has been dispatched to San Francisco to lead the consular response on the ground.

“We’ve all been shocked by the loss of life and injured,” Mr Kenny said.

“It is a terrible situation to have such a serious and sad incident to take place at the beginning of a summer’s activity and opportunity for so many young people on J1 visas in the US.”

A team of government officials were on hand in Dublin Airport to support relatives travelling to the US west coast while consular staff from the Irish diplomatic corps in San Francisco met them on arrival.

Jimmy Deenihan, junior minister responsible for issues relating to the Irish Diaspora, has been asked to lead the response in California and liaise with families alongside local consul general Philip Grant.

Mr Kenny said he would act as a government presence in solidarity with the affected families and the young people who remain in San Francisco.

Tánaiste and Labour Party leader Joan Burton, a former J1 student herself, said there are no words to describe the horror of the events at Berkeley.

“A J1 is meant to be a rite of passage, an opportunity to gain valuable life and cult exp in a country the US that’s so dear to all of our hearts,” she said.

“It is for a lot of people the summer of love, the summer of fun, and when you those faces today in the snapshots on social media and the newspapers I think it brings back to everybody what those days are meant to be

“Today though six families are heartbroken. Their children are wrenched away from them in the most dreadful of circumstances.”

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said everybody in Ireland was thinking of the grieving families.

“The J1 programme is essentially a programme for young people and it brings to mind opportunity, a summer of fun, a summer of happiness, new eras beckoning, relationships and so forth,” he said.

“That’s what it has such a resonance.”

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said: “It’s easy to imagine the energy, the fun and excitement at that party before the disaster.

“It’s a dreadful stark reminder of the fragility of life, of the uncertainty of life especially when the victims are so young, so vibrant and so full of potential.”

Flags flew at half mast at Government Buildings, at University College Dublin where three of the students studied, and at the US embassy in Dublin.

Books of condolences were also opened by the university, with thousands of people signing online, while other books were being opened in the Mansion House in Dublin and in Cork and Galway.

A book of condolences has also opened in the Honan Chapel for the UCC and wider community to express its sympathy and solidarity with the family and friends of the students.

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