Irish nurse dies in beach massacre
An Irish mother-of-two gunned down in the Tunisian beach resort massacre was taking her husband on holiday to help him recover from heart surgery, family friends have said.
Named locally as Lorna Carty, from Robinstown, Co Meath, she was believed to have gone to the beach by herself in Sousse when the gunman went on the rampage.
She was a nurse, aged in her 50s, and had a son and a daughter.
One family friend said: "Lorna rushed her husband to hospital about a fortnight ago after he was getting pains in his heart. He had to get stents in.
"They went out to Tunisia to have a bit of a holiday after the operation.
"Apparently (her husband) Declan stayed back in the room and she went to the beach."
Ms Carty, whose maiden name is Harlin, was a nurse in a GP surgery in Navan.
Her husband, a dairy farmer, is said to be uninjured but "absolutely distraught".
Her son Simon is on the Meath Senior Gaelic football team panel. The family are heavily involved in the local Gaelic Athletic Association.
Her daughter was believed to be on holiday after her school leaving exams.
Confirming the death, Dublin's Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan said he could not rule more Irish citizens being caught up in the Sousse atrocity.
A number of Irish families were believed to be holidaying there.
"Our focus is on establishing whether any other citizens have been killed or injured," the minister said.
"I would like to offer my heartfelt condolences to the family and loved ones of the deceased."
The Department of Foreign Affairs is giving consular assistance to those affected.
A dedicated support line for anyone with concerns about family or friends or with information has been opened, on Dublin 01 418 0200.
"Our Ambassador in Spain is en route to Tunisia accompanied by a consular official and will report to me on arrival," said Mr Flanagan.
"The Embassy in Madrid and our Honorary Consul, in conjunction with EU Embassies in Tunis, are monitoring the situation in Sousse, Tunisia, and are providing updates.
"In light of this incident we are changing our travel advice for Tunisia to 'exercise extreme caution'."
The minister said Irish citizens due to travel to Tunisia over the coming days and who no longer wish to, should discuss their arrangements with their travel companies.
"Irish citizens in Tunisia should remain extremely vigilant and follow the instructions of the police, tour operators, and their hotel staff," he added.
Elizabeth O'Brien, an Irish woman on holiday with her two boys in the resort, described how she grabbed her children and ran for their lives when they heard gunfire erupting from one of the hotels.
"We were on the beach, my sons were in the sea and I just got out of the sea, it was about 12 o'clock, and I just looked up about 500 metres from me and I saw a (hot air) balloon collapse down, then rapid firing, then I saw two of the people who were going to go up in the balloon start to run towards me - because I thought it was fireworks," the Dubliner told RTE Radio.
"So, I thought 'oh my God, it sounds like gunfire', so I just ran to the sea to my children, and grabbed our things and as I was running towards the hotel, the waiters and the security on the beach started saying 'run, run run!' and we just ran to our room, which is like a little bungalow."
Ms O'Brien said the Irish consul in Madrid, Spain, called her to say it was a terrorist attack in the hotel next door and told her to stay where she was.
"My travel agaent told me to go to the reception to speak to the rep, but I'm afraid, I'm stuck in the room with my two sons, not knowing what's going on," she said.
Tomas O Riordain, from Cork in Ireland but now living in the UK, was sitting at the poolside of his hotel with his wife and one of his three daughters when the gunman went on the rampage next door.
"We heard something like shots, but we thought it was a jetski backfiring or something," he said.
"We heard 10 or 15 shots in very quick succession.
"Then everyone started running in from the beach towards the hotel and we understood that something was happening."
Others from the hotel were playing volleyball very near to the gunman, he said.
"They told us that the attacker came down the street, and directly into the hotel," he told Ireland's RTE Raidio na Gaeltachta.
"He was dressed all in black, and came in firing all about him.
"We didn't see anything, but we heard everything. It was all over three or four minutes after it started."
Mr O Riordain added: "We were worried about my two daughters, Claire and Siobhan, who were at the beach but we just had to wait and see if they came back.
"When they returned, we went straight up to the room and closed the windows and the curtains, because they thought at that time that there was a second attacker with a gun so we didn't know if there was another attacker on the loose.
"There wasn't in the end, there was a second man waiting in a getaway car, and he was arrested."
Mr O Riordain said his hotel, El Mouradi Palm Marina, is just to the left of the hotel where the attack happened.
Despite the Tunisian massacre, some Irish holidaymakers were still planning to fly out to the country this evening.
In a brief statement, Irish travel agency Sunway, said it is working with the Department of Foreign Affairs and relevant parties.
"Our primary concern is our customers in the resort and we are monitoring the situation closely," a spokeswoman said.
"Further updates when information becomes available."
Martin Skelly, president of the Irish Travel Agents Association (ITAA), issued a statement saying the industry was deeply saddened at the death of an Irish woman.
"We are deeply saddened by the news that an Irish woman has lost her life in the terror attack in Tunisia today," he said.
"A number of ITAA travel agents and tour operators operate holidays to Tunisia and we will be working closely with them and the Department of Foreign Affairs to assist anyone currently in Tunisia, or with outstanding bookings for travel to Tunisia."
A family friend said Lorna and Declan Carty were due to leave Tunisia to return to Ireland just hours after the massacre.
"They went out (to Sousse) last Friday and they were due home tonight," said the friend.
"Declan was in the hotel and Lorna went out to get a last bit of sun before leaving.
"When he heard all the commotion he went out, then he recognised the towel and the blood on it.
Son Simon travelled out to Tunisia tonight to be with his father.
Daughter Hazel, who was on an overseas sun holiday with schoolmates, is making her way home after being told about her mother's death.
Lorna's elderly parents Johnny and Amy Harlin were at her home in Robinstown as family, friends and neighbours called to lend their support.
She is also survived by three brothers and one sister.
"Johnny is just in tears, he had a great bond with Lorna," said a neighbour. "He was unwell and before she left she sorted everything, all his tablets for him."