Lawyer intent on getting a State apology for 1979 Whiddy oil terminal tragedy

January 13th, 2022 5:10 PM

By Siobhan Cronin

Michael, right, with his dad Tim Kingston and his baby sister Nora.

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Goleen Maritime lawyer Michael Kingston, who this week marks the 43rd anniversary of the death of his father Tim Kingston in the Whiddy oil terminal tragedy, says he will not give up on his campaign to get a State apology for his family and the families of all the 51 victims.

He was commenting as RTÉ re-ran the Fire in the Sky radio documentary this week, telling the story of the explosion on board the tanker Betelgeuse in Bantry bay on January 8th, 1979.

In October, the French Irish Association of Relatives and Friends of the Betelgeuse requested a State apology. ‘The families asked An Taoiseach Micheál Martin to offer this, by agreed wording, in Dáil Éireann, and to urgently carry out a root and branch review of Ireland’s current failure to implement international maritime regulation,’ said Mr Kingston this week. 

‘The families have waited for 43 years for an apology by the State, and for regulation to be implemented in a timely manner. No apology was forthcoming, and An Taoiseach failed to even consider the matter. Accordingly the families have ended communication with the Government, in advance of imminent High Court action.’

 Mr Kingston is taking a legal case, as he believes the deaths were ‘unlawful’ under Irish law in 1979. 

‘We are applying for the Irish State to rectify the death certificates pursuant to the Right to Life provisions of Article 2 of the European Convention of Human Rights, and of Bunreacht na hÉireann, to state ‘unlawful death’. This has been established in respect of other disasters in Europe, like Hillsborough,’ he said. ‘This fundamental right of the victims has been ignored here in Ireland, despite obvious regulatory wrongdoing directly causative of their death, and the Government has repeatedly failed to meet to discuss this. In the absence of common decency, the only thing our State understands is the rule of law and the State will now be held to account in the High Court.’

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