Friday night, November 13, started out like any other weekend for Paris-based Galway man, Tim McInerney.
The Barna native was with three friends enjoying a meal in Septime, a restaurant in the heart of the 10th and 11th districts of the French capital.
Their Michelin-star eatery was packed and the streets outside in the popular area for cafes, restaurants and bars were bustling.
On the way to Septime, the quartet passed by the terrace of La Belle Equipe. About 20 minutes later that café bar with outside seating was the scene of horrific shootings.
Gunmen opened fire and shot dead 19 people in one of multiple simultaneous terrorist attacks on different Parisian targets in what was the deadliest assault on French soil since World War II.
Mr McInerney (29), who was dining 15 or 20 metres away, describes the panic that gripped once bullet shots were heard.
“What we heard was just noise,” he recalls.
“A very loud noise. People say (the gunshots sounded) like firecrackers. I don’t think it really sounded like firecrackers unless it was very close to you. It sounded to me like barrels, like metal barrels falling from the sky . . .
“I think the panic was curbed a little bit by the fact that nobody knew exactly what was going on. We could only see reactions of other people. We were getting so many different reports that it was difficult to know if any of it was true.
“We didn’t know, of course, that seven different explosions had happened at that point. I would say about half of the people in the restaurant panicked and about half stayed very calm.
“There was nowhere to go. People were panicking. There were several people in floods of tears, there were several older men, totally breaking down but very quietly – we had to stay very quiet and not make a commotion.”
Outside, people were diving under cars for cover, he says. At one point a bus pulled up outside and people got off and ran in the opposite direction of the gunshots. Inside the restaurant, one man recognised the noise as that of a Kalashnikov. Diners initially took cover under the tables and then were advised to hide behind two large concrete pillars, farther back in the restaurant, which would have offered more protection from bullets.
Phones were still working but patrons were in the dark as to what was happening outside. “News came quite late. After going into hiding first, there was no news. The first we learned of it was people running in off the street saying ‘there’re tens of dead people lying on the ground out there’,” says Mr McInerney.
Mr McInerney contacted his sisters, Sarah and Ruth, back in Ireland, and later notified his parents, Dan and Martha, that he was safe.
The terror began shortly before 10pm and at about 2.30am, Septime was evacuated by military, who had swarmed the streets.
“Nobody wanted to leave but we were told to leave. They were clearing the streets systematically. Everyone was terrified of course. There was nowhere to go; no way to get home – there were no taxis, the Metro had been stopped. To walk would mean walking through central Paris. Even though it seemed like everything was over, how was anyone to know really?”
Not only was Mr McInerney so close to the attack last Friday but a fortnight previous he frequented Le Carillon with his visiting sisters for a drink.
Le Carillion – which he describes as an unpretentious, local bar popular with young Parisians, something you might find in Woodquay, Galway – was also attacked by gunmen, with up to a dozen killed.
See full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune – along with a personal piece on the impact of the attack, by France’s Honorary Consul in Galway.
Exploring the merits of moving into the west
Broadcaster Mary Kennedy has an abiding image of those early mornings when she’d set out from Dublin at the crack of dawn to begin work on another day’s filming down the country with Nationwide.
“I always liked to go in the morning rather than stay there the night before – so I’d be on the road early. And from the moment I’d hit Newland’s Cross, all I’d see was a line of traffic of people trying to make it from home to their workplace in Dublin,” she says.
These were people whose day began before dawn to get their bleary-eyed kids ready to drop at a childminder along the way, so they could be on time for work – and then race home to hopefully see those same kids before they went to sleep.
But if the pandemic had a positive, it was the realisation that work was something you did, not a place you went to. As a result, many people finally grasped the nettle, moving out of the city and sometimes even taking their work with them.
Which is why Mary – busier than ever since her supposed retirement from RTÉ – is presenting a new television series called Moving West, focusing on those individuals and families who have, as the title, suggests, relocated to the West.
One of the programmes comes from Galway, where Mary met with Stewart Forrest, who relocated with his family from South Africa to Oughterard, and Carol Ho, a Hong Kong native who has also settled in Galway.
The TG4 series also stops off in Sligo, Mayo, Kerry, Clare, Roscommon and Leitrim.
Read the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download our digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie
Community’s tribute to one of their own – saving final cut of turf after his passing
A local community responded in force to the death of one of their own – a man who had given so much of his life for the good of the parish – by paying one last practical tribute to him last week.
They lifted and footed his turf.
John Geraghty – or Gero as he was known – lived for Gaelic football and he’d filled every role imaginable with the St Brendan’s GAA Club since he came to live in Newbridge in 1983.
He’d cut the turf before he died last Tuesday week, but there it lay, until his old GAA friends organised a bunch of guys – made up of the football team, friends and neighbours – to meet in the bog last Wednesday evening to lift and foot/clamp John’s turf.
“Upwards of 50 fellas from the community showed up,” said St Brendan’s chairman Gerry Kilcommins.
Which was just as well, because, as Gerry acknowledged, John – himself a two-time chairman of the club in the past – had a lot of turf cut!
“It took up an area around three-quarters of the size of a standard football pitch,” he said.
Not that this proved a problem, given the enthusiasm with which they rolled up their sleeves for their old friend.
They started at 7.30pm and had it done at 7.55pm – that’s just 25 minutes from start to finish.
Read the full, heartwarming story – and the St Brendan’s GAA Club appreciation for John Geraghty – in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download our digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie
Liver donor dad would do it all again in a heartbeat
It is nearly two years since Paddy Browne gave his daughter Sadhbh part of his liver to save her life. And just ahead of Father’s Day, he reflects on how he would do it all over again in a heartbeat, without a single moment’s hesitation.
After an initial testing time in the first six weeks when they beat a path to the intensive care unit after the operation in St King’s Hospital in London, Sadhbh has never looked back.
“She’s thrived and thrived and thrived. She skips out to school every day. She loves the normal fun and devilment in the yard. She’s now six and started football with Mountbellew Moylough GAA, she loves baking, she’s a voracious reader – she’ll read the whole time out loud while we drive up to Crumlin [Children’s Hospital].”
But it could have all been so different.
Sadhbh from Mountbellew was diagnosed with Biliary Atresia shortly after she was born. She quickly underwent major surgery to drain bile from her liver. It worked well until she reached three years old when an infection caused severe liver damage and she was placed on the liver transplant list.
She was on a long list of medication to manage the consequences of advanced liver disease. While she lived a full life, she would tire very easily.
Paddy was undergoing the rigorous process to be accepted as a living donor when one of the tests ruled him unsuitable. His brother Michael stepped forward and was deemed a good match.
Then, further tests revealed that Paddy was in fact eligible for the operation and the previous result disregarded as a false positive.
Read the full, uplifting story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download our digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie
Organ Donor Cards can be obtained by phoning the Irish Kidney Association on 01 6205306 or Free text the word DONOR to 50050. You can also visit the website www.ika.ie/get-a-donor-card or download a free ‘digital organ donor card’ APP to your phone.