Storm Ophelia: President extends sympathy to victims’ families

Higgins says his ‘heart goes out to those who have lost loved ones’, praises ESB workers

Clare O’Neill died when a tree hit her car in Co Waterford and Michael Pike died while cutting a tree in Co Tipperary during Storm Ophelia

Clare O’Neill died when a tree hit her car in Co Waterford and Michael Pike died while cutting a tree in Co Tipperary during Storm Ophelia

 

President Michael D Higgins expressed sympathy with the relatives of the three people killed in Storm Ophelia and said he hoped for “a spirit of co-operation” in the rebuilding efforts after the devastation.

Speaking on his State visit to Australia, Mr Higgins said that it was “very good” that so many people heeded the advice of the Government, Met Éireann and the emergency services and that they “took the greatest care”.

“Obviously my heart goes out to those who have lost loved ones and what they must be suffering and there are others as well in different parts of the country,” he told reporters in Sydney.

Three people were killed in separate incidents in counties Waterford, Tipperary and Louth, while almost 300,000 properties were left without power after the country was battered by the worst storm in more than a half century.

Clare O’Neill (58), a cancer support co-ordinator, was killed when a tree fell on the car she was driving near the village of Aglish in Co Waterford on Monday morning.

President Michael D Higgins speaks to reporters in Sydney during a State visit. Photograph: Simon Carswell
President Michael D Higgins speaks to reporters in Sydney during a State visit. Photograph: Simon Carswell

Michael Pyke (31), from Ardfinnan in Co Tipperary, was killed while clearing a fall tree at about 12.30pm. A third person, a man in his 30s, died when his car hit a fallen tree at Ravensdale in Co Louth shortly after 2pm.

Mr Higgins said that during his visit in Australia he had received regular updates on how the hurricane was affecting the country as the storm blew across the island on Monday.

Some people had been badly affected by flooding, he noted, while others will have to rebuild homes.

“I simply hope that once again people will come together in a spirit of co-operation, very particularly between a voluntary sector that always springs into action, neighbours who always spring into action,” he said.

The President praised the work of the ESB and other public and semi-state agencies that respond to crisis.

“I often admire the ESB and the electricity authorities and how quickly they are back out there trying to bring people back power and energy and I admire them for that. They gave a great service and we should be proud of this public sector and semi-public workers,” he told reporters after an event in Sydney.

Mr Higgins addressed a business luncheon at the Sydney Opera House hosted by Enterprise Ireland, IDA Ireland and representatives of more than 50 companies who have travelled to Australia as part of a trade mission coinciding with the President’s State visit.