An Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence, Micheál Martin, will address a special GOAL Memorial Service in Iveagh House, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) today to honour the 32 dedicated GOAL staff members from Southern Türkiye and NW Syria, who most tragically lost their lives in the catastrophic earthquakes last February 2023.
The Service will also be attended by Simon Coveney, T.D., Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Seán Fleming, Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs with responsibility for International Development and Diaspora; representatives from the Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, including Senators Catherine Ardagh, Diarmuid Wilson, Gerard Craughwell, and Joe O’Reilly and Fianna Fáil, TD, James Lawless; DFA Director Generals, Michael Gaffey and Ruairi de Burca and other DFA Directors.
Of special note, a small group of staff members from the GOAL Türkiye and Syria teams will be in attendance. These staff members witnessed the 400 km of destruction first-hand. They worked on the initial emergency response and are now working on the ongoing reinstatement and delivery of the existing humanitarian aid programmes in Türkiye and Syria, where GOAL has been operational since 2016 and 2012, respectively. Prior to the earthquake, GOAL was delivering aid to 32,000 people in Southern Türkiye and 2.1 million people in North-West Syria every year.
Speaking in advance of the Remembering Service, which will provide a solemn opportunity for GOAL friends from across the world to come together in person and online in solidarity and remembrance, Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence, Micheál Martin said, “The devastating loss of 32 GOAL workers led to a deep sense of shock and sadness across Ireland. I would like to extend my sympathies once again to their loved ones in Türkiye and Syria, as well as to the wider GOAL family, who continue to carry a deep sense of grief and loss. While grieving their loss, it is important also to remember and celebrate their contributions to the world. These were young men and women who dedicated their lives to helping others. They were driven by a desire to assist the most vulnerable in society. They put their lives at risk to help others. That is a powerful legacy to leave and one that will continue to inspire people around the world.”
In tandem, Seán Fleming, Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs with responsibility for International Development and Diaspora, said, “The earthquake which struck Türkiye and Syria led to enormous destruction and loss of life. Among those who died were 32 staff members of GOAL. This was devastating to hear, and my thoughts are with the families and friends of those who lost their lives. It is a testament to GOAL’s teams in Türkiye and Syria that they have continued to carry out the vital work of rebuilding the region despite tragically losing so many of their colleagues. GOAL’s humanitarian teams perform life-saving work around the world every day.”
Also speaking about the unique Service, Siobhan Walsh, CEO of GOAL, said, “Humanitarian crises are increasing in number, magnitude, and complexity across the globe. We salute the humanitarian community across the globe as they tirelessly work together in close partnership to come to the aid of the world’s most vulnerable communities. They venture into the most challenging, dangerous environments with compassion, empathy, and a deep sense of purpose, and their work extends beyond borders and transcends cultural and political barriers.”
“As we gather today, we acknowledge the dangers faced by all humanitarian workers across the world, and we honour their dedication, courage and resilience and the sacrifices they make in the face of unimaginable crises”, concluded Siobhan Walsh.
The order of service will comprise a welcome and introduction by MC and Irish radio presenter, Shay Byrne, followed by a keynote address by Tánaiste Micheál Martin. Barry O’Connell, Board Chairperson of GOAL, will then deliver an address and introduce a video tribute to the GOAL staff members who lost their lives. The service will also feature musical performances by Andrea Delaney and Vincent Lynch and Turkish and Syrian poem readings, which will be read by Elif Celikatas and Hakan Kokacara from the GOAL Türkiye team and by Nasser Alhiraky and Mustafa Al Manla from the GOAL Syria team. Siobhan Walsh, CEO of GOAL, will give a closing address.
The deadly earthquakes, with a magnitude of 7.8 and 7.5, struck Southern Türkiye and NW Syria early on the morning of Monday, 6th February. The earthquakes claimed the lives of over 50,000 people and caused the displacement of up to 1.9M people in the 11 affected provinces in Southern Türkiye after significant damage to 192K buildings. In North-Western Syria, where the earthquake severely affected Idleb and Aleppo, up to 1,700 buildings were destroyed, and more than 8,600 buildings were partially destroyed. Up to 55,000 families already displaced because of the ongoing conflict were displaced again.