Irish in San Francisco offer help to owner of trashed house

VIDEO: Irish J1 students ‘letting Ireland down’, says Minister for Foreign Affairs

Charlie Flanagan has said the Irish J1 students responsible for vandalising their accommodation in San Francisco are "letting themselves down, letting their families down, and letting Ireland down".

Speaking on RTÉ radio, the Minister for Foreign Affairs argued the J1 students’ conduct was “not reflective of the very good behaviour of the tens of thousands of young Irish people who go abroad on J1 visas every year”.

“I think sometimes young people when they’re abroad feel they’re not subject to the same strictures as if they were at home,” he said. “This behaviour does show a clear lack of respect.”

“I think there’s an element of parental responsibility here that they need to be advised when going abroad, particularly younger teenage students.”


Irish construction companies in San Francisco have offered to repair the house that was trashed while rented by Irish J1 students.

The consul-general in San Francisco Philip Grant said "reputational damage" had been done to Irish students in the city, and the wider Irish community was anxious to make amends.

“These cases are always damaging in a city where it is difficult to find accommodation at the best of times. This is an isolated incident. It is not typical of the J1 students, but stories like this don’t help,” he said.

Mr Grant described the response of the Irish community in San Francisco as “amazing. Not just from the Irish in San Francisco, but also the other J1 students from Ireland who were there during the summer.

“We have had people offer to help pay for the costs of the damage and they’ve also offered to help track down those who were responsible.”

The house in the Sunset District was owned by Indian landlord Ritu Vohra who took it back into her possession on Friday.

The students had ripped chandeliers from the ceilings, broke doors, smashed windows and punched holes in the walls. All the students left without informing her of the destruction.

She estimated that the damage would run into tens of thousands of dollars.

The damage featured on local CBS network evening news.

Some of the students have contacted Ms Vohru to apologise for what happened and had offered to pay their share of the costs.

They told her the damage was done by outsiders who were invited back to a party at the house.

Mr Grant said the consulate had been in touch with the Irish and American agencies who run the J1 programme to ensure those responsible for the damage accepted their responsibilities and paid for it.

The house had been rented by seven J1 students from different Irish third level institutions, though between 14 and 15 people lived there at various stages during the summer.

Ms Vohra had rented the same house to Irish students last summer and had no difficulties with them.

Some 8,000 Irish students travel to the United States on J1 visas every year. A quarter of them go to the West Coast, most to San Diego.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak is an Irish Times reporter and cohost of the In the News podcast