herald

Saturday 3 December 2016

Send Irish navy to get us out of Tunisia, say fearful tourists

Helen Kennedy and Ollie Mullen with Mia (9), Ryan (7) and Ava (11) in Tunisia
Helen Kennedy and Ollie Mullen with Mia (9), Ryan (7) and Ava (11) in Tunisia
Tourists look at flowers that have been laid on the beach near the RIU Imperial Marhaba hotel in Sousse, Tunisia, as British holidaymakers defy the terrorists and continue to stay in Sousse despite the bloodbath on the beach.

An Irish tourist who is desperate to get his family out of Tunisia has proposed that the Irish naval vessel the LE Eithne could be deployed to take Irish citizens out of the North African holiday destination.

David Jackson, a Luas driver from Lucan, Co Dublin, said he and his wife Mary were too afraid for the safety of their two children to let them leave their hotel following the massacre of tourists on a beach last week, as there appeared to be insufficient security. Mr Jackson (53) was furious that his tour operator JustSunshine.ie refused to fly his family home to Ireland earlier than Friday next.

Worried

The desperately-worried father referred to the Irish naval vessel, currently conducting rescue missions for African migrants in the Mediterranean, when he said in frustration: "The LE Eithne is picking up every Tom, Dick and Harry out of the sea. We're taxpayers, citizens, what about us?" he asked.

READ MORE: Tunisian massacre: Bodies of attack victims return home today

Both Mr Jackson and Irish holidaymaker Helen Kennedy told RTE Radio One's Liveline programme yesterday that they flew out to Tunisia with their families after the massacre. JustSunshine.ie refused to give them an option of a refund if they decided not to go.

Mr Jackson and Ms Kennedy (40) later both told the Herald they wanted to leave Tunisia immediately because they felt in danger of attack by terrorists. The two families must wait until Friday to fly home with Just Sunshine.ie

They said a rival operator, Sunway Travel, gave their customers the option of full refunds if they did not want to travel after the massacre.

Ms Kennedy, a native of Lucan living in Co Longford, said her terrified children had barricaded their hotel-room doors at night and asked her if they were going to be killed.

READ MORE: Beach killer linked to gunmen in attack on museum

British customers of UK company Just Sunshine.com were being given the option of being flown home if they wished, but customers of the Irish-based Just Sunshine.ie did not receive a similar offer.

John Dennis, who owns 91pc of Just Sunshine.ie, told the Herald his Irish company "made an error of judgement. We should have offered a refund and we apologise for that."

But he still refused to fund any earlier flights home for individual customers, stating his small company would have serious financial pressures following the collapse in demand for its Tunisian holidays.

UK operators were in a position to offer flights home because several airlines flew daily between Britain and Tunisia, but his Ireland-Tunisia route only operated once a week, he said.

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