Irish in Turkey react to Istanbul bombing
Security a concern for Irish residents and tourists following sixth suicide bombing in the past year
Workmen repair the windows of shops near the scene of the Istiklal Street attack. Photograph: Cem Turkel/EPA
Tourists stand with their belongings as they leave their hotels after Saturday’s bombing in Istanbul. Photograph: Deniz Toprak/EPA
For decades Turkey has been a prime tourist destination for Irish sunseekers.
But a spate of bombings, the latest in Istanbul on Saturday where a blast killed at least five people in a district popular with tourists, is leading to heightened safety worries.
Steve O’Farrell from Sandycove in Dublin, who has been living in Istanbul since 1998, says security in Turkey is now a serious concern. “There were lots of warnings about the possibility of an attack this weekend on social media, it was pretty much expected,” he said.
“If I didn’t have family here I probably wouldn’t have stuck around. Everything is very uncertain.”
On Thursday, the German consulate and Deutsche Schule Istanbul, a private German school situated close to Saturday’s blast site, closed following word of a possible security threat in the area.
And in January, a suicide bomber thought to be of Syrian origin killed 10 German tourists close to Istanbul’s famed Blue Mosque, raising fears the fallout from the war in Syria had spilled into the country’s multi-billion Euro tourism sector.
For Ronan Dockery from Roscommon, who until last year ran an Irish bar close to the Istiklal area where Saturday’s bombing occured, what happens in the coming weeks and months will be telling.
“There’s no reason to believe it won’t get worse,” he said. “If it’s seen that the attacker was targeting tourists on Saturday then that’s a bad thing for both foreigners and Turks with businesses, and for the country. The atmosphere in the country is going downhill.”
Yet there’s also a sense that Irish visitors to Turkey know its summer tourist hubs are situated far from Istanbul and Ankara, where 37 people died in a suicide attack last Sunday and over a hundred more were killed at a peace rally in October.
In recent months violence has flared in the predominantly Kurdish-populated southeast and close to the Syrian border, but so far holiday resort areas crucial to Turkey’s economy have been peaceful.
“I don’t see much change for Irish people coming to Turkey because the majority come to Bodrum, Kusadasi and Antalya (on the Mediterranean coast). Irish people who come to Turkey tend to do so regularly; I don’t think that’s going to change because they know Kusadasi is a 13-hour drive from Istanbul.”
Some plan to stay on despite the growing unrest.
“As it stands we’re not planning to move on. We own a house and live away from the city centre,” said O’Farrell, who runs a corporate and teacher training company in Istanbul.
“I’d have no problem advising people to come to Turkey,” said Dockery. “There’s no question of me leaving.”