Belfast Telegraph

Belgium attacks: Foster and McGuinness voice solidarity with the wounded capital of EU

By Allan Preston

The first and Deputy First Ministers have expressed their solidarity with the people of Brussels after yesterday's devastating terrorist attacks killed more than 30 people.

In a joint statement Arlene Foster and Martin McGuinness strongly condemned the violence and expressed their sympathy with the victims of the Islamic State bombings and their families.

"We stand united with the people of the European Union's capital as we try to comprehend the needless taking of lives," it read. "These attacks do not achieve anything but destruction and devastation of life and families.

"We stand with our European family when we say those responsible will not be allowed to erode freedom. Our sympathy is with the people of Brussels and Belgium and we support them fully as they move forward from this dark moment."

They added that all staff from the Executive working in Brussels had been accounted for.

DUP MEP Diane Dodds arrived at the European Parliament yesterday morning shortly before the explosion at the nearby Metro station.

She was advised to stay indoors along with her staff. Speaking from her office she said: "These bombings act as a stark reminder of the carnage that mindless and unjustified acts of terrorism can bring to us all. My thoughts are with those caught up and directly impacted by these actions."

Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson was also in Brussels.

"In the European Parliament this morning we held a minute's silence to pay our respects to those killed and injured in today's attacks at the airport," he said. "Shortly after, news broke that underground Metro stations near the EU institutions have also been attacked.

"No political or religious cause can justify such terror."

Sinn Fein MEP Martina Anderson had been flying to Brussels from London, but turned back. Some on social media noted the irony of the convicted bomber being forced to cancel an event in the European Parliament commemorating the 1916 Easter Rising.

In an email annoucing the cancellation of 'Gallant Allies in Europe', she added: "Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of all those affected by these terrible events. Stay safe and look out for each other."

Her party colleague Matt McCarthy MEP described an "eerie atmosphere" in Brussels.

"Everybody (in the Sinn Fein office) is safe and sound and all seem to be happy enough. I am in the bubble of the Parliament Building... there is an eerie sense around the building," he said.

Justice Minister David Ford said the world needed to stand with Brussels following the attacks.

"Today, the world stands with Brussels in the wake of these horrific attacks," he said.

"Alongside our shock, sadness and sympathy with the people of Brussels, these attacks bring a determination to not allow terrorism to undermine democracy and its very principles."

The SDLP leader Colum Eastwood called the attacks "sickening." He said: "Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Brussels today. The final death toll remains unknown but the loss of even one innocent represents an attack on all of us."

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