Kieran Foley reports
A WATERFORD City councillor was on board a flight which was due to land in Brussels shortly before last week’s terrorist attacks.
Cllr John Hearne (Sinn Féin) was on board an Aer Lingus flight which had departed Dublin early on Tuesday morning last, March 22nd.
Cllr Hearne was part of a delegation travelling to Brussels for a special 1916 Easter Rising commemorative event which was due to be held at the European Parliament; local Sinn Féin member Michael Doyle was travelling with Cllr Hearne. A number of traditional Irish musicians from Ring were also on board the same flight.
While the flight was airborne, two explosions ripped through the departures hall of Zaventem airport.
“As we were preparing to land, the pilot announced that he was going to do another loop before landing,” explained Cllr Hearne.
“Then he said he had been asked to land in Amsterdam and that we would be transported by bus to Brussels.”
The passengers weren’t informed of the events unfolding in Brussels while in the air – a decision Cllr Hearne believes was correct as it could have sparked panic.
“When we arrived in Amsterdam, I spoke with Sinn Féin members who were already in Brussels and they told us what was happening and that the city wasn’t safe,” he said.
Cllr Hearne and Mr Doyle remained at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam for a number of hours until they boarded a flight back to Dublin.
“We were lucky but 31 families were not and they lost a loved one forever,” said Cllr Hearne.
“Hundreds more face years of painful surgery after a savage assault on innocent people of all creeds and colours for no reason. People should not use this atrocity to pedal hate. No innocent person should be hurt because of hate being preached by any creed. Let’s get justice for the dead and their families and may they rest in peace.”
No plans have yet been made to reschedule the 1916 commemoration event which was due to be held in Brussels.
Michael Doyle described last Tuesday’s events as a “very disappointing and heart-breaking end to what would have been a wonderful occasion”.
“The poor people massacred, critically injured and maimed are in my thoughts. Half an hour later and we would have landed in Brussels. Life is too short,” he said.
“Nothing can justify the continued widespread, indiscriminate evil actions of this very small group of Muslim fanatics who are intent on instilling fear and mass murder in every country throughout the world on the basis of their interpretation of fundamental Islam.
“We should remember that the word Islam means peace and the vast majority of Muslim people seek peace with their neighbours. These actions should not allow stereotypical judgements to be formed on a whole race of people.”