Death of Students: Expressions of Sympathy.

With the permission of the House and in agreement with the party leaders, I want to say a few words about the terrible bus crash yesterday and express sympathy for the victims.

Yesterday five young girls left their parents and homes to go to school. It was probably a normal day like any other school day but it was not to be so for very long. Those young women were not to return to their parents and their homes alive again. A terrible and sudden tragedy has been visited upon the families of Sinéad Ledwidge, Aimee McCabe, Deirdre Scanlon, Claire McCluskey and Lisa Callan. It is a tragedy shared by their school mates who were on that last fateful bus journey with them last evening. The local community and the whole country send their prayers and heartfelt sympathies to the families of these fine young girls.

Our thoughts too are with the injured who are not only physically but emotionally hurt by this awful event. Today is an occasion of grief for the dead and of solidarity with those who are left behind. I am sure all of us in the House are thinking of the principals of the schools, the teachers and the other pupils in the schools, the parents and everybody else who has been affected by this tragedy and, by extension, other children around the country to which this tragic event brings a certain fear today.

On my behalf and on behalf of the Government I express my sympathy again to the bereaved families and to the entire community around Kentstown and Navan.

I share in the condolences offered by the Taoiseach by extending my sincere sympathy and the sympathies of the Fine Gael Party to the parents of the school girls who lost their lives so tragically yesterday in County Meath. We think today of Sinéad Ledwidge, Aimee McCabe, Deirdre Scanlon, Claire McCluskey and Lisa Callan, greatly loved and sadly missed.

Many of us were in Meath recently for the by-election. It is fair to say that the royal county and its fine people will be devastated for years to come by the tragedy that struck out of blue yesterday right at the end of the school year.

I speak for the party in sending our prayers and thoughts to the families who are today keeping vigil at the bedside of their children who survived. It will be extraordinarily difficult for all those who were involved or injured yesterday to reconcile themselves with what happened to their school friends. Today I wish them every healing and full recovery in body, mind and spirit.

To lose a child must be the most unbearable loss in any parent's life. I am sure last night after the news broke there was not a house in Ireland where parents did not look at their own children and think "What if, and thank God it wasn't". For that reason alone, the heart of every parent here and every parent in the country goes out today to those parents in County Meath.

Again, I offer heartfelt sympathy to all the families and I pray for comfort and healing for the hearts and lives that are broken today in Meath and beyond.

On my behalf and on behalf of the Labour Party, I join the Taoiseach and Deputy Kenny in extending my heartfelt sympathy to the parents and families of the five young teenagers. As Deputy Kenny said, to lose a child is a terrible tragedy but for five young people between the ages of 13 and 16 to have met their deaths in these circumstances is a terrible tragedy to visit one small area. It is a terrible tragedy to visit the Kentstown and Beauparc areas of County Meath. It is a terrible burden to be carried by the Loreto Convent and their fellow pupils and teachers in that school. The cause of the accident, which we do not know, will be thoroughly investigated. It is important the findings and recommendations of the investigation are followed through and implemented. However, we do not know at this stage whether any safety precautions would have avoided this terrible accident. To their families and friends, I extend our sympathy. To the 16 young people still in hospital, on behalf of the Labour Party, I wish them the earliest possible recovery.

On behalf of the Green Party, An Comhaontas Glas, I join with other party leaders in expressing our heartfelt sympathy on the tragic loss of life of five young teenagers. I extend our thoughts and prayers to their families and to all those injured. I spoke on the telephone to one of the young survivors, Rory O'Byrne, who was fortunate to have escaped with minor injuries — cuts and bruises. For those involved, it was a horrific crash. He said to me he wished he had been at home yesterday to avoid the scenes and what happened.

It is important we bear in mind the trauma this incident has caused the school children, staff and principals in the schools involved and those involved in the bus company and roadworks. The area has been left in a state of numb shock and grieving heartbreak. Our thoughts today are with those who must apply themselves to the work of counselling, investigation and ensuring we avoid such a tragedy ever happening again. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a n-anamacha go léir.

I extend my deepest sympathy and that of my family to the families of the five children who died so tragically in the school bus crash in County Meath. To the devastated families and friends of Sinéad Ledwidge, Aimee McCabe, Deirdre Scanlon, Claire McCluskey and Lisa Callan, we offer our heartfelt condolences on their terrible loss. The thoughts of parents and children throughout the country are with these grieving families. A local community and a school community have been devastated by this tragedy and our thoughts are also with them.

Credit is due to all the emergency services for their fast and efficient response to the accident. The tragedy occurred at a time which is both poignant and stressful as pupils prepare for the start of exams and as parents invest their hopes for the future in their children. This tragedy raises many questions which will be addressed later in Dáil business. For now we can do no more than express our deepest sympathy. Comhbhrón ó chroí do na teaghlaigh uile agus suaimhneas síoraí dóibh siúd a fuair bás.

I and the Independent Deputies express profound shock at the tragedy in County Meath. The loss of a young life at any time is a huge tragedy but when five young lives are snuffed out in a calamity such as this, it scarcely bears speaking of. This tragedy has reached throughout the country to my home parish of Lispole from where Deirdre Scanlon's father came. I am sure the other young people have friends and relatives around the country. The Independent Deputies express their sympathy to the families, loved ones, colleagues, teachers and communities appalled by this tragedy.

We must await the outcome of the investigation but it is clear that after a proper period of mourning, we should have a debate on the safety of transport for schoolgoing children and youth. Although, unfortunately, there will always be accidents, whatever investment is needed to achieve the highest safety standards for children, including the provision of seat belts and other safety measures, must be considered. From this appalling tragedy those debates will open up at the appropriate time.