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Tuesday 22 January 2019

Disaster victim's son attacks Government for failing to honour Whiddy Island dead

Horror: Relatives of victims of the Whiddy Island disaster attend 40th Anniversay event at Abbey Cemetery in Bantry, Co Cork. Photo: Provision
Horror: Relatives of victims of the Whiddy Island disaster attend 40th Anniversay event at Abbey Cemetery in Bantry, Co Cork. Photo: Provision

Ralph Rigel

The Government has been slated for failing to properly honour the memory of 51 Irish, French, UK and Dutch nationals who died in the Whiddy Island oil tanker disaster.

The son of one Whiddy victim also hit out at the fact the Government was only represented at a special 40th anniversary memorial service by a junior minister despite all senior Irish politicians being invited.

Junior Health Minister Jim Daly attended the memorial in Bantry in west Cork - but Michael Kingston, who lost his father Tim in the oil tanker explosion on January 8, 1979, insisted someone of Cabinet rank should have attended as a mark of respect.

"Nearly every Irish maritime institution is here today but where are the responsible ministers for these areas in the Irish Government?" he said.

"Where are our leaders to welcome our French friends here today? Where is the respect for our maritime sector and our rescue services?

"Let us be clear - 43 [French] people came into our jurisdiction and died in a workplace disaster that should never have happened.

"The failures that took place both on the ship and at the oil terminal were some of the worst derelictions of duty in relation to safety in world maritime history."

Mr Kingston asked Mr Daly to immediately raise the Whiddy issue in the Dáil and urged Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to issue a public apology for what happened 40 years ago.

Mr Daly later said he was representing the Taoiseach and Government at the ceremony.

"That [an apology] is a judgement call for the Taoiseach to make," he said.

Hundreds attended the special Bantry memorial to mark the 40th anniversary of the French-owned oil tanker MV Betelgeuse exploding.

Irish Independent

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