Sunday 24 September 2017

Tears and candles in memory of loved ones who died on Flight 182

Kevin Keane

THEY gathered in silence and lit candles that floated gently into the Atlantic waters.

Twenty-five years after it blew up off the Cork coast, the families and friends of Air India Flight 182 came to remember yesterday.

Dozens of relatives had travelled from India and Canada to be in the small Co Cork village of Ahakista on the Sheep's Head peninsula.

Pictures of mothers, sons and grandfathers who were among the 329 who perished in the bombing were mounted on a low stone wall.

Others affected by the tragedy, including doctors, medical workers and volunteers from Cork, stood at the memorial site that bears the names of the victims.

Since 1985, they have forged close bonds with many of the families affected.

A minute's silence was observed at precisely 8:13am, the moment when flight 182 disappeared from Irish radar.

The aircraft was due to land in London's Heathrow airport on its journey from Toronto to Mumbai but on June 23, 1985 was blown to pieces 190km off the Irish coast by a bomb planted in its luggage hold.

All 307 passengers and 22 crew on board the jumbo jet died, some from drowning after surviving the initial explosion and the terrifying fall from 31,000 feet.

Cowardly

Among the dead, 82 were children. The attack ranked as the worst terrorist atrocity on an airline until September 11, 2001.

Yesterday, at the Air India memorial, Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin described the bombing as evil and cowardly.

He said the tragic events of 25 years ago have forged unbreakable bonds between the peoples of three continents -- bonds that cross the world.

"Each year, Ireland and the community here in Ahakista gladly open their arms to welcome the families and friends of the victims after their long journey to this hallowed ground, close to where so many perished.

"This sacred place, here on the Atlantic coast of Ireland, belongs to us all. It is a symbol that we will never forget the events of that tragic day or those who were lost. It is a rejection of the hatred and violence of terrorism," Mr Martin said.

Among those who travelled to be at the ceremony was Dr Anant Amran, who lost his wife and two daughters in the bombing.

He said that for many people the memorial was the only place they had to mourn their dead because their remains were never found.

Also present were Canadian immigration minister Jason Kenney and India's commerce minister Salman Kurshid.

In Toronto yesterday at his country's memorial service for the tragedy, Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper apologised to the relatives of the victims for the government's failure to prevent the bombing and for never bringing the ringleaders to justice.

Just last week an official report blamed a "cascading series of errors" by Canada's intelligence and police agencies in relation to the bombing.

Irish Independent

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