Irish in Barcelona describe tense atmosphere as residents told to stay inside

‘There is a lot of fear. People don’t know what is going on,’ says Irish citizen

A van ploughed into crowds in the heart of Barcelona on Thursday, August 17th and Spanish media reported at least 13 people were killed, in what police said they were treating as a terrorist attack. Video: Reuters


Irish citizens in Barcelona described a tense atmosphere in the city on Thursday night with residents told to remain inside amid concerns over the whereabouts of the attackers.

Amy McColgan (27) from Letterkenny, Co Donegal, who works as a translator in the city and is based just two hundred metres from the scene of the attack, said she heard people screaming as they fled.

“We were at our desks working on translation projects when we began to hear a lot of raised voices and people fleeing away from the Las Ramblas,” she said.

“We knew something had happened but it wasn’t until we went online that we realised there had been what seems to be a terrorist attack.”

Ms McColgan and her colleagues were also instructed to remain inside their office.

“We have been told there could be more of them around and not to go outside the building. I don’t know when we are going to be able to leave,” she said on Thursday evening.

She texted her parents to let them know she was okay. While transportation in the city was shut down, Ms McColgan said her colleagues had offered her and others a place to stay on Thursday night.

“There is a lot of fear. People don’t know what is going on,” said Misty Barker, a freelance writer who works about five minutes from the site of the attack.

“The difficult thing in this situation is to know what is true and what is not true. There are reports of another van, a second van.”

Ms Barker (31) saw a video of the aftermath of the attack.

“To be honest I actually had to look away from it. I saw people lying on the side of Las Ramblas. There was a girl with blood all over her, clearly unconscious, and a guy beside her who had broken bones and again blood all over him. It was shocking,” she said.

“You hear of ‘injuries’ [IN ATTACKS]and you don’t actually realise how bad they are. I certainly didn’t.”

Ms Barker’s phone continued to receive updates of information from fellow residents as she described the unfolding situation on the ground.

Residents were all watching local television bulletins where, she said, updates were emerging faster than from other sources.

Outside on Ronda Sant Pere, Ms Barker said the normally thriving street was now completely evacuated, in keeping with police instructions. From her vantage, she could make out flashing police sirens, a barricade and an apparent operation aimed at curtailing the movement of people.

“The one thing I would say is that the Spanish police here are extremely efficient in responding; the sheer volume of available police they have.”

Barman Gordan Sullivan from Cavan said he saw police cars racing to the area on his way to work at Flaherty’s Irish Bar located at the opposite end of Las Ramblas.

The bar has been closed with customers still inside. “We are closed for business, we’re not letting anyone else in,” he said, speaking by phone on Thursday evening.

Staff were told by police shortly after the attack to close the doors and clear the terrace.

“As far as we know there are still one or two people involved who are armed,” said Mr Sullivan. “The atmosphere is pretty tense, we’re worried. The people who are in the bar don’t want to leave.”

President Michael D. Higgins said he had asked the Spanish ambassador to convey his condolences to the government and people of Spain.

“Barcelona has a long history of hospitality and has over the years received so many people from around the world,” he said.

“As President of Ireland I want to send the people of this great and welcoming city not only our sympathy but also the solidarity of the people of Ireland.”

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said he was “appalled” by events in the city.

“On behalf of the Irish government, I wish to convey our condolences and solidarity with the people of Spain at this time,” he said.

The Department said it is monitoring developments closely through the Irish Embassy in Madrid and Honorary Consul in Barcelona.

Irish citizens in the vicinity of the incident are advised to follow the advice of local authorities, it said.

Anyone with concerns for people’s safety in Barcelona can contact the consular assistance team in the Department at (01) 408 2000 or the Irish Embassy in Madrid on 0034 9143 64093.