Families of those who died in Whiddy Island disaster renew calls for justice in RTÉ documentary

Produced by Donal O’Herlihy and Michael Lawless, the RTÉ Radio 1 documentary Fire in the Sky pieces together "the dramatic story of the night that will never be forgotten".
Families of those who died in Whiddy Island disaster renew calls for justice in RTÉ documentary

Loved ones of those who died in the Whiddy Island disaster have renewed calls for justice in a new radio documentary that explores the events leading up to the West Cork tragedy. Picture: Richard Mills

Loved ones of those who died in the Whiddy Island disaster have renewed calls for justice in a new radio documentary that explores the events leading up to the West Cork tragedy.

Produced by Donal O’Herlihy and Michael Lawless, the RTÉ Radio 1 documentary Fire in the Sky pieces together "the dramatic story of the night that will never be forgotten".

The tragic maritime disaster occurred in the early hours of Sunday, January 8, 1979, when the oil tanker Betelgeuse caught fire and exploded, claiming the lives of 50 people.

A further fatality occurred during the salvage operation with the loss of a Dutch diver.

"In our Documentary On One: Fire In The Sky, we hear from those who were there, and can recall the dramatic events of the night," Michael Lawless says, writing for RTÉ.

One person who features in the documentary is Michael Kingston whose father Tim lost his life that night.

"To this day families are still trying to establish the truth, and continue to call for a state apology.

"Michael Kingston, son of the late Tim Kingston, a consultant with the United Nations International Maritime Organisation and special advisor with the Arctic Council of States is spearheading a High Court Application on behalf of the French Irish Association of the Relatives and Friends of the Betelgeuse to have the coroners verdicts quashed and established a new inquest with a view to having the deaths categorised as 'unlawful killing'," Mr Lawless said. 

The documentary also features former president of Ireland Mary McAleese, who was a reporter for RTÉ at the time and covered the subsequent tribunal appointed by the Irish government to investigate the incident.

To listen to the documentary visit www.rte.ie/radio/doconone/

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