Irish aid worker survives brutal assault on Haitian orphanage

Gena Heraty from Co Mayo runs a special needs clinic on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince

An Irishwoman working in a Haitian orphanage has survived a vicious assault which left one of her colleagues dead.

Gena Heraty from Co Mayo is the director of a special needs clinic for orphan children on the outskirts of the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince.

She was subjected to a brutal assault at the weekend when two men, one armed with a hammer, attempted to rob the home.

Ms Heraty was punched and hit a number of times with the hammer before retreating to a nearby bedroom to protect some of the children.

When her colleague Edward Major, an unarmed watchman, tried to intervene, the attackers turned on him, striking several times with the hammer. He later died of his injuries.

Ms Heraty described the attack today “as absolutely brutal”.

“They came to me and they were looking for money. They had what seemed to be a gun - we’re not sure if it was a real gun - and a hammer,” she told RTÉ’s News At One programme.

She said she eventually managed to get away from her attackers after some of the children came to her rescue.

“I was very lucky. When I got away from them with some of my kids - who had come to my rescue - he [Major] came into the house then and he got the brunt of it after that.”

Ms Heraty said she did not think the attack had implications for other aid workers working in Haiti.

“I think, for our organisation, it wasn’t random. I think they targeted me in this case because there is not that many of us and I suppose they associate us as having power or money or whatever.”

“They know that we’re responsible for programmes. They know that people give us of money and that we give the money to other people and so they came looking for money.”

She claimed the attackers probably had “inside information” from people that grew up in the orphanage or in the area.

Asked if the incident had made her rethink her work in Haiti, she said: “It has made me more determined than ever to continue doing what I’m doing.”

“For me, life is very simple, there are good forces and bad forces, and for as long as the forces of good outnumber the forces of bad then our world is a better place.”

“We’re not going to stop doing what we’re doing. No way. We just have to be more organised among ourselves and more careful and try and secure our properties a bit more.”