herald

Tuesday 6 December 2016

Flanagan lashes out at 'callous' NY Times article

reaction

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan has slammed the controversial New York Times article about the Berkeley tragedy, describing it as "callous, insensitive and totally out of order".

In a wide-ranging interview with the Herald, Mr Flanagan rounded on the story which drew a furious backlash from almost every quarter.

The article, which in its second paragraph said the J1 Visa programme had become a "national embarrassment", has drawn a furious response from the minister with direct responsibility for the Government's response to the tragedy.

dreadful

"It was out of order in absolute terms. I haven't commented on the matter until now because I was concentrating on the consular programme," Mr Flanagan said,

"The article was totally insensitive, completely out of order. I understand an apology has been made. It was a most inaccurate, insensitive and callous portrayal of Irish students and particularly against the background of this dreadful tragedy."

New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan said the newspaper "made some mistakes".

Mr Flanagan said he was informed of the tragedy by his officials in San Francisco very quickly.

"From a very early stage in San Francisco we were in contact with medical authorities, local authorities. The news came through quickly," he said.

"I had a quick word with the Taoiseach and informed him of the tragedy and felt it was appropriate to make the announcement as soon as I could, that there be no vacuum during which speculation and anxiety would have been further heightened."

Mr Flanagan became emotional when he was talking about many young people abroad who were not directly involved in the tragedy but who "felt alone" and so far from home.

"By Tuesday evening, the tragedy had affected many young people abroad who were not at the party, just because of the shock and the trauma and the feeling of being alone," he said.

"An emergency response unit has to do what it says on the tin. I think the people in the department dealt with this in a hugely professional way."

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