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New inquests demanded into Whiddy Island deaths

January 19th, 2023 11:55 AM

By Southern Star Team

Mary Kingston at the Whiddy memorial in Bantry. (Photo: Andy Gibson)

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INTERNATIONAL maritime expert Michael Kingston, whose father Tim died in the 1979 Whiddy Island disaster, has demanded new inquests into the 50 deaths, following the recent 44th anniversary of the explosion on the Betelgeuse tanker.

The Goleen man has corresponded with the Taoiseach on behalf of the victims’ families, to make his demand.

Speaking on last weekend’s RTÉ Radio 1’s Sunday with Miriam with his mother Mary Kingston, Michael explained why he believes the deaths were ‘unlawful’ due to what he said were monumental regulatory failures by the Irish State in the lead-up to the disaster that allowed a crucial bridge linking the jetty with the island to be dismantled, in order to double loading capacity.

In the correspondence with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, copied to Minsters Ryan and Donohoe, (successive Ministers for Transport) the families demand that the Taoiseach now direct the Attorney General to order new inquests under the Coroner’s Act, due to what Mr Kingston says is ‘the unreliability’ of the inquests on  July 12th 1979 and  February 15th 1980.

Mr Kingston is demanding the government now publishes two reports which he believes will show that Ireland has been in deliberate breach of international regulation, and European regulation, meaning that no maritime investigations in Ireland have been carried out correctly, resulting in a European court judgment against Ireland in July 2020.

He believes this has resulted in further unnecessary deaths.

‘This is a doubling down on grief, by utterly disrespecting the lives that were lost in 1979 for similar Department of Transport failures, when we should never again make such errors. And what of the other poor families who have suffered and lost beloved family members across this nation in recent times because of this?’ he asked.

This week Fine Gael TD Joe Carey also urged his party leader and Taoiseach to address the Whiddy families’ requests, in a letter to Deputy Varadkar.

‘It’s important that the State moves to address the many issues arising from the Widdy Island disaster and the Marine Casualty Investigation regime. As a first step I am appealing to you to meet with Mr Kingston as a representative of the French Irish Association of Relatives and Friends of the Betelgeuse, with a view to mapping out a way forward to address the many most serious issues that arise from this tragic case,’ he urged the Taoiseach.

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