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Primate deeply saddened by deaths of six students

By Sarah Mac Donald - 17 June, 2015

Tea Light Candles in the Dark 2 preview imageThe Primate of All Ireland, Archbishop Eamon Martin has expressed his shock over the “tragic deaths” of six young Irish students in Berkeley, California.

In a statement, the Archbishop said he was “deeply saddened” to hear the reports of the deaths.

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

The Archbishop said he prayed that the seven injured students would fully recover from this terrible accident.

Their injuries are reported to be serious.

“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,” he said.

On Tuesday evening, the six students were named as American student Ashley Donohoe (22); Olivia Burke (21); Eoghan Culligan (21); Niccolai Schuster (21); Lorcan Miller (21); and Eimear Walsh (21) who were all from south Dublin.

Ashley Donohoe and Olivia Burke were cousins.

The Irish students were all at the start of their J1 summer visa programme. A number of them were students in UCD. Niccolai Schuster and Eoghan Culligan were past pupils of St Mary’s College in Rathmines, Dublin.

They met their death when the fourth floor balcony on which they were standing collapsed at the Berkeley apartment where they were attending a 21st birthday party.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin and Glendalough, the Most Revd Dr Michael Jackson said, “It was with a deep sense of sorrow that I, like everyone else, heard of the tragic death and serious injury of young people in Berkeley California.”

“Our hearts go out to the families and friends of these who have died and also to those who battle with serious injury and significant trauma as a result of their terrifying and painful experiences.”

“We are all aware that students from Ireland, in particular, travel to America at this time of year after examinations in the hope and expectation of fresh experiences and that they instantly make new friends.”

“Our sympathy is with all of those who suffer in these long and sad days. Our thoughts are with relatives who travel to be reunited with those whom they love, in circumstances they never envisaged possible. We also remember those who tend the injured and the hurt in Berkeley.”

The Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour in Foxrock remained open overnight on Tuesday for those wishing to pray for the young victims and their families.

Meanwhile, Independent TD for Tipperary, Mattie McGrath, called for a full day of mourning for the Berkeley victims. “It’s a tragedy beyond comprehension,” he said.

As the families of the victims began arriving in California last night, the Government here announced that all flags at major public buildings would be lowered as a mark of respect to dead victims.

UCD President Andrew Deeks has released a statement expressing heartbreak at the news of the student loss.

“On behalf of the entire University community, I wish to extend our condolences to the families and friends of those who died and to those who were injured. We cannot comprehend the desperate shock and grief they are feeling and we are heartbroken at their suffering and loss,” he said.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan said, “Today is a horrific day for those who have lost loved ones in tragic circumstances in San Francisco and for all those affected.”

He added, “In my Department and in our Consulate in San Francisco, the students and their families have been at the centre of our thoughts and actions today.”

An online book of condolences is on www.ucd.ie and a book of condolences will be open in the Mansion House in Dublin on Thursday and Friday from 10am-4pm.

St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin will open a Book of Condolences for those who wish to show their respect for all who suffer in this particularly Irish tragedy. The book will be available to sign from lunchtime today (Wednesday 17 June) during cathedral opening hours – 9.30am to 5pm Monday to Friday and 9am to 6pm on Saturday and Sunday (except during Sunday services).

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