BERKELEY, Calif. — They come by the thousands — Irish students on work visas, many flocking to the West Coast to work in summer jobs by day and to enjoy the often raucous life in a college town at night. It was, for many, a rite of passage, one last summer to enjoy travel abroad before beginning a career.
But the work-visa program that allowed for the exchanges has in recent years become not just a source of aspiration, but also a source of embarrassment for Ireland, marked by a series of high-profile episodes involving drunken partying and the wrecking of apartments in places like San Francisco and Santa Barbara.
Early Tuesday, 13 people, most of them young Irish students here on the visa program, were crowded onto a fourth-floor balcony off Unit 405 for what neighbors described as a loud party when the balcony collapsed, sending people tumbling onto the street below. Six people were killed; five were Irish and the sixth had dual Irish-American citizenship, according to the Irish Embassy. Three of the dead were men, three were women, and all were in their 20s. At least seven others suffered injuries, some serious.
It’s almost impossible for me to address this without throwing something. Or, better yet, getting rip-roaring drunk and then trashing a handy nearby apartment building in my stereotypically wild Hibernian way. Nothing this execrable newspaper writes surprises me any more. With a bunch of dead Irish kids whose parents are even now starting to bury them, Adam Nagourney and two other Times hacks see fit to report their deaths like this.
Today in Ireland we are hanging our heads in shock and sorrow at the needless deaths of six of our brightest and best young adults and the serious injuries to others. Today the New York Times should be hanging its head in shame at how outrageously and without the remotest evidence it has rushed to judgment on those deaths… Shame on you.
- The Times has issued an apology:
Spokesperson for the NY Times, Eileen Murphy, said that the article in question was “intended to explain in greater detail why these young Irish students were in the US. We understand and agree that some of the language in the piece could be interpreted as insensitive, particularly in such close proximity to this tragedy,” Murphy continued. “It was never our intention to blame the victims and we apologize if the piece left that impression. We will continue to cover this story and report on the young people who lost their lives.”
- Still unsatisfied, the Irish minister for equality, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, slammed the Times’s racist insensitivity in a tweet:
@nytimes Your attempt at an apology for your offensive #Berkeley article is pathetic. It’s clearly futile appealing to your better nature.
What better nature? Ireland becomes the first country in the world to pass gay marriage by popular referendum and this is the thanks it gets from the New York Times.