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Thursday 8 December 2016

1985 State Papers: Northern talks leaders were stunned at news of Air India plane bomb that killed 329

Air Crash

Ralph Riegel and Chris Parkin

Published 31/12/2015 | 02:30

A part of the wreckage of Air India Flight 182 is hauled from the waters off the coast of Cork. Photo: Ted McCarthy
A part of the wreckage of Air India Flight 182 is hauled from the waters off the coast of Cork. Photo: Ted McCarthy

The terrorist bombing of an Air India plane off the Irish coast with the loss of 329 people so shocked European Governments it interrupted critical Anglo-Irish Agreement talks.

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Secret documents revealed that Taoiseach Dr Garret Fitzgerald and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher were briefed on the terrorist atrocity as they prepared to enter sensitive talks.

The briefing took place at a special Anglo-Irish conference held at Castello Sforzesco in Milan, Italy, on June 29, 1985.

Mrs Thatcher was particularly keen to learn details leading up to the destruction of Flight 182 off the west Cork coast.

The bombing took place on June 23, just six days before the conference. It later transpired that 24 British nationals were on board. Flight 182 was torn apart by a terrorist bomb while it was cruising at 9,400 metres (31,000 feet) on the Montreal-London-New Delhi route.

Tragedy

It was 160km off the west Cork coast with the nearest point of land being the village of Ahakista.

The west Cork village staged a special memorial last summer to mark the 30th anniversary of the tragedy.

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan joined with Canadian Justice Minister Peter MacKay, Indian External Affairs Minister Vijay Kumar Singh and the families of Flight 182 victims to mark the anniversary.

The memorial at Ahakista was erected at the closest point of land to the Air India flight before it was destroyed.

Those who died included 268 Canadians, 24 Britons and 24 Indians, as well as other nationalities.

The rescue and recovery operation remains the biggest ever undertaken by Cork emergency services.

Over the past 30 years, the people of Ahakista have taken the families of those who died to their hearts - many of the relatives now staying with locals when they attend the memorial each year, and Mr Flanagan warned the world cannot tolerate such acts of terror.

"There can never be justification for the murder of innocents in pursuit of any political end," he said.

"Unfortunately, terrorism continues to plague our world and we have seen many repugnant and malevolent acts in the last 30 years.

"But what is abundantly clear is that terrorism does not deliver the political goals of its perpetrators, and that governments, with the support of their people, will continue to tackle the scourge of terrorism and promote dialogue and justice."

Mr Flanagan said that Ireland, Canada and India had forged close bonds of friendship and solidarity in the wake of the tragedy.

"These bonds have remained strong over the past three decades and the community in west Cork will always gladly open their arms to welcome the families and friends of the victims in the spirit of deepest friendship and solidarity," he added.

Among those who attended the ceremony last summer was poet Renée Sarojini Saklikar (53). She was just 23 when the atrocity claimed her aunt and uncle.

"My family will never forget the compassionate care given to us by the people of Cork in the days just after the bombing," she said.

Irish Independent

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