THE families of those who died in the 1979 Whiddy Island disaster are taking High Court action against the State and are seeking the public’s assistance in meeting their legal costs, via a GoFundMe page.
The families are hoping to raise €100,000 to take their case to the High Court, claiming that the Government failed to address multiple safety failings in the worst maritime disaster to occur in Irish history.
In 1979 the French oil tanker, MV Betelgeuse, caught fire and exploded at Gulf Oil’s Whiddy Island oil terminal’s offshore jetty in Bantry Bay, West Cork.
It caused the death of 50 people; 42 French, seven Irish and one Englishman, on January 8, 1979.
“The families are applying to the High Court for rectification of the victims’ death certificates, in view of clearly unlawful breaches of 1979 legislation by the terminal operator,” the group stated on its GoFundMe page.
International lawyer Michael Kingston, from Goleen in West Cork, lost his father Tim in the devastating explosion. He has campaigned for many years on behalf of the families to ensure that appropriate penalties are in place to ensure that nothing like this can occur again in Ireland.
The organisation created by the families, called The French-Irish Association of Relatives and Friends of the Betelgeuse, believe that they have a strong case and if successful with an anticipated costs recovery, the donations of those who support the families will be given to a chosen list of charities.
These include The Friends of Bantry General Hospital, Mission de la Mer, Ireland Community Air Ambulance, RNLI, Société Nationale de Sauvetage en Mer (SNSM), Mission to Seafarers, and Apostleship of the Sea.
According to the group, the main motivation is to “protect society from these appalling failings and this action will help to do that and your support will too.”
To donate, log onto GoFundMe and search: ‘The Whiddy Island Disaster — High Court Action.’