US balcony collapse: Mary McAleese anger at New York Times report

Workmen examine the damage at the scene of a 4th-story apartment building balcony collapse in Berkeley, California June 16, 2015.

The victims were mostly Irish students who were living temporarily in the US

The New York Times “should be hanging its head in shame” over a report on the California balcony collapse, former Irish President Mary McAleese has said.

The paper apologised for “insensitive language” in its report that linked the accident to previous “drunken partying and the wrecking of apartments”.

Five of the six people who died were Irish students temporarily in the US as part of a work exchange programme.

In a letter, Mrs McAleese said the report used “lazy tabloid stereotype”.

She said she had been part of the same visa programme more than 40 years ago and out of tens of thousands of students who had visited the US, “the vast majority have been a credit to Ireland”.


Former Irish President Mary McAleese said the paper had used lazy stereotyping

In the letter published by the Irish Times, Mrs McAleese said the report had “heaped deliberate injustice on top of the most awful grief”.

The newspaper said in a blog that the article was intended to explain in greater detail why the young Irish students were in the US, and many of the complaints it had received were valid.

New York Times spokesperson Eileen Murphy said in an email: “It was never our intention to blame the victims and we apologise if the piece left that impression.”


The victims: Top row from left – Ashley Donohoe, Eimear Walsh, Olivia Burke. Bottom row from left: Eoghan Culligan, Lorcan Miller and Niccolai Schuster

The victims

  • Ashley Donohoe, 22
  • Olivia Burke, 21
  • Eoghan Culligan, 21
  • Niccolai Schuster, 21
  • Lorcan Miller, 21
  • Eimear Walsh, 21

Read more: Tributes to Berkeley balcony victims


The incident happened during a 21st birthday party in the early hours of Tuesday in the city of Berkeley.

Engineers say water damage may have caused the structure to give way.

An initial investigation found that the balcony support’s wooden beams may not have been sealed properly at the time of construction, Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates said.

However, he later stressed that this was not an official conclusion and that an investigation was still under way.

Authorities said 13 people were on the fourth-floor balcony when it collapsed.

People left flowers and other tributes at the scene on Wednesday as flags on both sides of the Atlantic flew at half-mast.

Irish students held a candlelit vigil in a park close to the scene of the tragedy on Wednesday evening, and a memorial church service was held in Oakland.

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