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DFA advises Irish schools to cancel trips to France

Some students plan to fly to France next week while others postpone their trips to Paris

French police officers patrol the outdoor Christmas market on the Avenue des Champs-Elysees in Paris as part of the state-of-emergency security measures in the city. Photograph: EPA

Irish schools have been advised by the Department of Foreign Affairs to cancel any trips planned to France this weekend in the aftermath of last Friday’s Paris attacks.

However, a number of students plan to travel to France next week while other groups have postponed trips to Paris until next year or changed their destination to another European city.

Many schools who have organised tours to France in the lead up to Christmas are continuing to meet with parents to decide on whether or not to go ahead with their trips.

A spokeswoman for the DFA said they would continue to monitor the situation and update their advice in the days ahead.

The department said in a statement it was recommended all Irish schools planning to take groups to France this weekend to follow the advice of French authorities and not travel.

“As part of the national state of emergency, the French Ministry of Education has cancelled all school trips within France by French schools until Sunday, November 22nd. This includes excursions to cultural sites (cinemas, museums, etc) and travel by school groups on public transport,” it said.

Kathleen Kinane, manager for Dublin based school tours operator Tours4Schools, said they had been “very busy” in negotiations with schools, airlines and suppliers since the Paris attacks over a number of tours scheduled between now and Christmas.

She said Paris was the top destination for school tours and they were receiving many calls looking for advice.

“We had a tour over there last weekend during the attacks, they were staying out in Disney, and thankfully they were fine,” she said.

“Christmas is a popular time for tours now.”

Ms Kinane said no one had cancelled their tours to France yet but some had postponed their trip until next year or changed destination to another European city.

“Schools are not sure yet what to do and are trying to see what are the options. A lot of them are holding parent meetings to see who wants to go and who doesn’t want to go. They’re still deciding,” she said.

“It’s about trying to find the right balance.”

Ms Kinane said one group due to fly in a couple of weeks had postponed their trip to Paris until April.

“They looked at different options and decided they would stay with Paris. Most students are doing French and want to go to Paris,” she said.

“Some schools are changing destination but nobody is cancelling. Other schools are looking to go next year in hope that things will die down.”

Jean-Marc Bourguignon, co-director of Living Language in Dublin who organises school placements for students primarily in France, but also in Germany and Spain, said they currently had 18 students in different areas in the north-west of the France who were all “safe”.

“They are safe; they are being watched by the families. Not a single parent said I want my child, it’s the opposite, they want to stay longer,” he said.

“One girl was very lucky. The family, who were kind enough to offer to take her to Paris last weekend, were supposed to go on the Friday. Somehow, luckily, they were delayed and couldn’t leave on the Friday. On Saturday when they realised what had happened they cancelled the trip.”

Mr Bourguignon said he would fly with a small group of students who will be staying in the north-west of France next week.

“I don’t envisage problems, I’m confident everything will be ok,” he said.

“Where the students are going is far from Paris, to small villages. Paris is different because it’s the capital. I think it’s (the terror attacks) over. They’ve got the main organiser for the Paris attacks.”

Mr Bourguignon, whose company has dealt with placement programmes for 38 years, said the teenagers were staying with families or at boarding schools.

“I’m due to go a collect them just before Christmas.”

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