Irish ambassador ‘overwhelmed’ by memorial to Manchester victims
Dan Mulhall signs book of condolences in ‘one of the most Irish cities in the world’
Irish ambassador to the UK Dan Mulhall (second from right) speaking with Dublin-born Manchester councillor Pat Karney of the Labour Party at the memorial to the Manchester Arena bomb attack victims at St Ann’s Square in Manchester city centre on Friday. Photograph: Simon Carswell/The Irish Times
Ireland’s ambassador to Britain, Dan Mulhall, described the floral tributes to the Manchester Arena bombing victims as “overwhelming” on a visit to the memorial at St Ann’s Square in Manchester city centre on Friday.
Mr Mulhall said he decided to travel to Manchester, at the request of the Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan, because the city is “one of the most Irish cities in the world outside of Ireland”.
“As a father and grandfather I just feel a particular sense of grief about such young victims of this brutal act,” said the ambassador, standing next to a sea of flowers, balloons and candles to the dead.
Thousands of people have visited the memorial to the 22 people killed when Salman Abedi (22), the UK-born student of Libyan descent, blew himself up at the end of a concert by US singer Ariana Grande on Monday night.
There were about 120 people injured in the suicide nail bombing in the foyer of the Manchester Arena in the worst terror attack on British soil since the July 2005 bombings in London that killed 56 people.
At least six children were killed in Monday’s attack, including an eight-year-old girl.
A number of other children were seriously injured in the attack and are being treated in hospital.
Visiting the memorial with Dublin-born Manchester councillor Pat Karney, Mr Mulhall said that he delayed his visit until after the immediate emergency in the wake of the attack while the victims were still being identified.
“I felt today was the appropriate day to come in the week of this terrible tragedy as a sign of the special fondness that we have for Manchester in Ireland and the fact that this tragedy impacted on Ireland in ways that maybe will go beyond the impact of this tragedy around the world,” he said.
“It has had a huge impact around the world because of the context… the youth of the victims has made a huge impact in Ireland. There is a sense that this is something that is quite close to us.”
The ambassador signed a book of condolences at Manchester’s Town Hall next to Albert Square where Tuesday’s vigil to the victims was held and later met the Lord Mayor of Manchester Eddy Newman.
Mr Mulhall met five Manchester councillors with Irish backgrounds during his visit, which he said was another illustration of the close links between Ireland and Manchester.
Mr Karney said he was “very grateful” to Mr Mulhall for taking time to visit Manchester.
“There is a very special relationship between Manchester and Ireland, not least because of the huge Irish community in our city,” he said.
Although no Irish-born citizen was directly affected by the attack, he referred to the strong Irish bonds in Manchester.
There are tens of thousands of Irish-born people living in Manchester and many more who identify themselves as Irish.
There were 71 flights a week to Manchester from Irish airports, he said, and Irish visit regularly to shop, for sporting events and for concerts.
He described the new Irish World Heritage Centre as “probably the best Irish centre certainly in Britain and probably in the world.”
Mr Mulhall said that the “deranged” views of small group of people should not be blamed on the wider Muslim community, just as the Irish community in Manchester was not blamed for the IRA bombing that devastated the city centre in 1996.
“I do know from Irish people here that the response in Manchester at that time was a very inclusive one. Manchester authorities made every effort to avoid any scapegoating of the Irish,” he said.
“I think the same is obviously happening at the moment which is a very good thing indeed.”
Mr Karney said that the Manchester authorities learned a great deal from how the Irish community responded to the IRA bombing of the city 21 years ago.
“We wouldn’t allow then the Irish community and the Irish people be scapegoated and targeted because of evil people and similarly now because of evil individuals, we don’t allow communities and religions to be branded, to be associated and connected with them,” he said
“That is what the strength of Manchester is.”
From the memorial, Mr Mulhall travelled on to the Irish World Heritage Centre in north Manchester.
Minister of State for the Diaspora Joe McHugh is scheduled to visit Manchester next week.