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Aoife MacManus is expected to return to Ireland in the coming days. PA
Irish in Afghanistan

Taliban escorted Meath woman to Kabul airport as 36 Irish citizens remain in Afghanistan

Aoife MacManus, one of the three Irish people who has left Afghanistan, spoke to Nuacht RTÉ this evening.

LAST UPDATE | 19 Aug 2021

MEATH WOMAN AOIFE MacManus, one of the three Irish people who have left Afghanistan, has described how the Taliban helped to escort her to the airport in Kabul last night. 

Speaking from Islamabad this evening, she told Nuacht RTÉ that she managed to reach the airport entrance despite difficulties getting there, and was admitted by American soldiers.

She added that she was very thankful to have succeeded and that she stayed overnight in the airport before boarding a flight to Pakistan this morning.

She will remain there to rest for a few days before flying home to Ireland. 

Her comments come after Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said that the number of Irish people seeking to be evacuated from Afghanistan has risen to 36.

Coveney said an earlier figure of 25 adults and eight dependents has risen slightly, despite three people successfully leaving the country.

Coveney said it would not be helpful to reveal how MacManus was evacuated as Irish officials are working to get many others out of the country amid chaotic scenes at Kabul airport.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne programme, the Foreign Affairs Minister said the Irish government was working with the European Union, the United States and the UK to secure safe passage for Irish people out of the Asian nation after the Taliban seized control.

He added that the majority of the 36 people work for international or non-governmental organisations and some of them are dual citizens. 

Coveney said the biggest obstacle currently is getting people into the airport complex.

NATO and Taliban officials say that at least 12 people have been killed at the airport in recent days, as a result of gunshot wounds or stampedes. 

“It’s actually very difficult to get people into the airport,” Coveney explained.

“It’s also difficult for some people to get to Kabul from where they are, and then from parts of Kabul to the airport.

“There are checks, run by the Taliban, and then there are large crowds that you have to find your way through to get into the airport, which is predominantly being managed by US soldiers,” he added.

Coveney said the EU and the United States are speaking with the Taliban, but he does not think it would be helpful if Ireland tried to liaise directly with the group. 

The Minister for Foreign Affairs said the EU has ways of exerting pressure on the Taliban as it provides enormous amounts of humanitarian aid to Afghanistan.

“If the Taliban want a relationship with the EU in terms of trade, access, humanitarian relief and so on we need to use those tools,” Coveney said.

The minister added that the Taliban being back in control in Afghanistan after 20 years of a Western presence was an “extraordinary foreign policy failing”.

“We’ve got to focus, in my view, on how we protect Afghans, and how we get foreign nationals that want to leave out, rather than focusing on the blame game,” he said.

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