Varadkar pledges inquiry if lorry passed through Ireland after ‘human tragedy’

The Irish premier has said investigations will be undertaken if it is established a lorry carrying 39 bodies had passed through Ireland.

“The information that we have so far this morning is very sketchy but there are some reports that the truck may have passed through Ireland at some point,” Leo Varadkar told the Dail parliament in Dublin.

“So, obviously we are going to need to get more information and carry out any necessary investigations that may be required.

“But I think everyone’s thoughts in this House this morning are with those who are dead, those who have passed on and their families.

“It is a real terrible and human tragedy, and we will carry out any investigations that are necessary if it’s established that the truck did pass through Ireland.”

Irish police were working with Essex Police on Wednesday to establish the facts over whether or not the lorry came from the Irish Republic.

Police activity at the scene in Grays, Essex
Police activity at the scene in Grays, Essex (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Verona Murphy, president of the Irish Road Haulage Association, said the industry is aghast at the news.

“I’m flabbergasted and devastated, 39 people are dead within this industry for whatever reason, and it’s just devastating,” she said.

“Devastating for their families, although we have very little information on this, from our point of view, we will be advising our drivers for the need for vigilance, for carrying out their own checks.

“We don’t know if this is orchestrated behaviour but we are determined to be sure that all our members are following guidelines to avoid anything of this nature, like protecting themselves and equipment but most of all mindful of the protection of human life.”

Although there has been much media reporting of immigrants travelling through ports in lorries, Ms Murphy said no one from her association had been approached by smugglers.

“There is total devastation among the industry that this has happened and no one would treat this with complacency,” she said.

Saddened at horrific news emerging this morning from Essex. Gardai assisting Essex Police towards establishing the facts. My Dept in receipt of ongoing information & updates. Thought & prayers with loved ones & families of those who tragically lost their lives.

— Charlie Flanagan (@CharlieFlanagan) October 23, 2019

“We don’t condone illegal immigration, assuming that’s what this is, if this is the case, it’s selfish and greedy without any concern for those who wish to cross borders.

“We’ve never had incidents where smugglers have offered any of our drivers money but we’ve had a number of incidents where drivers were subject to threats and have reported that.

“What happens out there is a very organised industry, and we would say it’s hazardous for everyone involved.

“Under UK Border Force rules the greatest of precautions is the protection of human life as well as their own, (the drivers), these are very vulnerable and desperate people.

“Very few of our drivers have ever been involved or prosecuted in the illegal trafficking of humans, I’m not aware of any, we’ve had someone who was a victim of infiltration.

“However, if you can prove you performed your checks, you might just receive a fine.

“We’re in total shock but what’s sad is the world has become desensitised to this kind of thing.”

Irish Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said on social media that he was saddened at the “horrific news emerging” from Essex.

He tweeted: “Gardai assisting Essex Police towards establishing the facts. My Dept in receipt of ongoing information & updates. Thought & prayers with loved ones & families of those who tragically lost their lives.”

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