Irish in Manchester: ‘You don’t think terror will come to your city’
Readers respond to suicide bombing which has left 22 people dead
Ariana Grande concert attendees leave the Park Inn where they were given refuge after last night’s explosion at the Manchester Arena. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
Lucy Montague-Moffatt: 'The atmosphere is sombre'
A woman I work with grabs my arm in the dark shadows of the shop we work in at 8am and tells me in a steady voice “I’m adopting you, if anything happens I live around the corner and you’re coming home with me.” She is waiting for a call from her daughter, a primary teacher who had pupils at the concert last night.
The atmosphere is sombre. Everyone is in shock.
“Are you ok?” The usual casual greeting to colleagues is met with the unusual “No, not really.”
I only found not about the horrific event when I received an influx of concerned messages this morning. It is only when something terrible happens that you realise how many people who care about you immediately associate you with the mention of “Manchester”.
Everyone here has a story of where they were “last time”, referring to the 1996 IRA bombings. There’s talk of white smoke pluming into the sky and a city that turned quiet for weeks after.
“I found one of the girls who worked in the food hall wandering in the street,” a co-worker tells me. “She still had her work apron on. I bundled her into the car and drove her home.”
That’s the other energy that is coursing through the people of Manchester today: action. Blood banks are fully stocked and donors are poised to run to the nearest bank when needed. A friend who is O- has contacted 10 banks and was turned away at them all. The story has spread of the homeless man who, begging outside the concert, became a hero by running inside after the blast to help. Mancunians are people of action, and today their arms are open.
Manchester is the same size as Dublin, so you are always going to know someone who knows someone who has been affected. People I work with were at the concert. Someone else sold tickets for it. He now wonders for the welfare of the stranger who bought those tickets from him, excitedly anticipating a night of singing, dancing and freedom.
This all feels too close to home. When you recognise the streets in news bulletins, the backdrop to people running and screaming in terror, it becomes very real.
I walked through the shopping centre where I work for my lunch today, although I was hardly hungry, and passed police with huge guns strapped to their front. They talked to the few people wandering around the centre. They want people to feel safe. I had the urge to shake their hand, but gave them a nod of thanks instead.
My Irish friends are now scattered all over the world, but this morning I received messages from Australia, Bali, Barcelona, Madrid, France and Dublin making sure I was ok. These attacks are plotted to make people feel isolated and alone, but reading those messages invokes a sense of togetherness and love that will always win out over all else.
We just got word that shops are closing for the day. The city centre has shut down. This is not the time for shopping, it is a time for being with loved ones, even if that for me means on Skype.
Lucy Montague-Moffatt is a writer from a Dublin, currently living in Manchester. Her radio play In His Kiss will be aired on BBC Radio 4 this July. She writes at alittledishy.com
Michael Gorman: 'For the Irish here there is much talk of the '96 bomb'
Everybody seems to know somebody who was caught up in the bombing - Manchester is that kind of place. People have been quiet - a little numb - just trying to let the events soak in and make some sense of it all. What drives a young local man to get a train to the Arena and set off a suicide vest at a kid's concert? This is exactly where ignorance, fear, hate, prejudice and racism intersect - and where we have to resist the strong urge to condemn and retaliate.
For the Irish community in Manchester there is much talk of the '96 bomb - when nobody was killed thank God. We are all too familiar with the aftermath of atrocities – blame-laying and exhortations from needy politicians to "carry on" and "not let the terrorists affect our values and way of life". Many of us try to simply cut through to the personal stories of loss and tragedy - and the selfless acts of heroism that punctuated the night. Such reflections make me feel a little less ashamed to be human.
My son - Pádraic - works next to the Arena and felt compelled to join the vigil in Albert Square on Tuesday night. He was joined by many who wanted to make a physical statement -"we will not be intimidated in our own city." I'm afraid I was just too scared to join him.
But in the end it is the numbness that returns - and that awful question - what drove this young University student to do it? And can we ever replace the fear and hate - now so prevalent in chatrooms and bars - with understanding, love, justice and reconciliation?
Enda Murphy: 'The sense of tragedy is very much to the fore'
When I heard the news on Monday I didn't know what to make of it; it was unclear what exactly had happened. But on Tuesday when I woke up and the dead count was 19, some of whom were kids, I was truly shocked. I felt like it was an attack on everyone who calls the city home.
The atmosphere is defiant. Blood banks are packed out with people queuing to donate, people are donating food to hospitals, hot drinks and snacks to the emergency services and people were letting random people stay with them over night until they got sorted. Taxi drivers came all the way from Liverpool to bring people home from the venue for free, as well as many of the taxi firms in Manchester, with many of the drivers who were Muslims, eager to show they do not identify with this evil.
The sense of tragedy is very much to the fore though, there are still children missing and their parents and loved ones are appealing on social media and on broadcast media for any information. It is truly heartbreaking.
I don't fear for my safety. I live in Sale, on the outskirts, but I believe today was a manic day in town. One of the raids they carried out was in Fallowfield, where I first lived when I came here, so it does drive it home. I fear that the right wing extremists will use this as an excuse to vent their racism and hatred for the Asian community, who cannot be all tarred with one brush. The Irish were in the same situation in the 90s in Manchester and we received plenty of abuse and discrimination as a result. There is a drive by various spokespeople to bring community together and stand against this.
I am currently manager of St Peter's GAA team (facebook.com./StPetersGAA). We will do what we can to help in the city. We are a proud club and proud of being based Manchester. We will be giving blood in the coming days to help out where we can.
Declan McSweeney: 'It has come as a profound shock for all who love the city'
The news of the horrific terror attack at Manchester Arena has come as a profound shock for all of us who know and love that wonderful city. I live in Liverpool now, but having worked in Manchester, and having family members still there, the attack really struck home.
The deaths of 22 people and the fact that 59 were injured at a concert at which young people should have been enjoying themselves underlines the sheer brutality of the so-called Islamic State, which has claimed responsibility. Saffie Rose Roussos was only eight, Georgina Callendar an 18-year-old student of health and social care, their only crime was to be at a concert.
This is by far the most severe terror attack to hit the north of England, and the first major terror attack since the IRA bombing of the Arndale 21 years ago.
The reaction by the ordinary people of Manchester has illustrated both their sense of defiance in the face of terror, and their hospitality to visitors, shown by the taxi drivers who brought distressed relatives in their cabs for free, and those who opened their homes. That sense of decency was underlined by the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, and the head of Manchester City Council, Sir Richard Leese, when they addressed the media.
Sir Richard alluded to the 1996 attack by saying that it had failed to divide the people of Manchester, and that the latest attack would also fail in this regard. It is clear that what Islamic State want is to cause a divide between Muslims and the rest of us, be we Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist or non-religious, but Manchester will not allow this to happen. Muslim taxi drivers were among those helping the victims, Muslim NHS staff worked to save the injured, Muslim police officers worked to track down the terrorists.
The shock of this attack is also acutely felt in Liverpool. Despite the football rivalries, at a time like this the two great cities of the north west are very united.
In the face of the profound evil which has visited the north west of England, I have no doubt that the region will maintain the 'spirit of the Blitz' which got it through the 1993 Warrington bombing and the 1996 Arndale bombing.
Declan McSweeney is an Irish journalist living in Liverpool.
Bryan Gray: ‘It makes you think more about your safety’
Manchester has been my home for eight years now. We live outside the city, but my office is 100m from the arena. Some of the guys I work with have daughters of the same age group as the concert-goers, so it has really left everyone feeling sombre. It just brings it [the fear of terror attacks] home, when it happens on your doorstep; even after the Paris, London attacks you don’t think it will come to your city. It makes you think more about your safety on a day to basis. But what can you do? You have to live your life. Manchester is a very resilient city and I’m sure the people will come together. There is a strong sense of community, so I’m sure it will bounce back stronger.
Oisín Share: ‘We all had friends at that concert’
I have been living in Manchester since 2009, but I happened to be in London for work yesterday and today so I’m watching the city I know so well engulfed in tragedy and chaos from afar. It is so shocking.
Manchester is a small city, with such a huge heart. It’s small enough that everything is familiar. We all had friends at that concert, other friends live next to the venue.
The city is also very proud, and this attack is devastating. We don’t expect these things in somewhere that isn’t a capital like London.