Beacon appeal at fisherman's funeral


THE FAMILY of fisherman Michael Hayes has appealed to the various Government agencies to introduce personal emergency beacons for those working in the fishing industry to try and ensure other families are spared the trauma of lengthy search and recovery operations.

Mr Hayes’s family issued the appeal at his funeral Mass in An Rinn, Co Waterford, on Saturday, when celebrant Fr Pierce Cormac spoke of the family’s relief that Mr Hayes’s body and those of his crew were recovered after the sinking of his trawler, the Tit Bonhomme.

Mr Hayes (52), a father of five from Helvic, was returning from a three-day fishing trip for prawn when his trawler hit Adam Island at the mouth of Glandore Harbour early on the morning of January 15th last and sank with the loss of five lives.

The bodies of crew members Egyptians, Attea Shaban (26) and Wael Mohammed (35) and Irish man Kevin Kershaw (21) were recovered in the first week or so. However it was only last week that the bodies of Mr Hayes and Egyptian Said Aly Eldin (23) were found.

Fr Cormac told mourners that the Hayes family supported comments made by Taoiseach Enda Kenny when visiting Union Hall that technology should be harnessed to allow fishermen to carry personal emergency beacons so families would be spared lengthy searches.

Mr Hayes’s widow, Caitlín, and their children, Lia, Ealga, Micheál, Ferdia and Dearbhaile fought back tears as Fr Cormac spoke of how their father’s work was unfinished as the deaths might yet bring benefits to other families.

“He [Mr Kenny] called at the time for something that has been echoed by the families, especially Caitlín and the family here – that a solution would be found using the best of modern technology to help in the search and rescue efforts.

“Michael never wanted to be lost at sea and he wouldn’t want this for anyone else either – one of the best memorials to Michael would be to put in place such a tracking device that would help in future situations and save lives and ease the pain for people.”

Mourners flocked to Séipéal San Nioclas in An Rinn and the church was packed an hour before the funeral Mass, with hundreds braving biting winds and rain to huddle outside and hear tributes to the late Mr Hayes.

His children, Ealga and Ferdia, spoke of their father’s love of sport, music and what a great family man he was. Ealga told how while he seemed “a big strong man” to many, to them he was “a big softie” who never thought them too old for “a kiss or a cuddle”.

Ferdia spoke of his father’s love of fishing, the sea and how excited they were when he took them out as children.

“The best thing thing to come out of fishing for Dad was that he met the love of his life, Mam. Many a time he told us about the first time he set eyes on her. It was coming in from a fishing trip and he saw her on the pier, mending nets and her hair full of fish scales and he knew that she was the woman for him,” Ferdia said.

Mr Hayes’s brother, Tom, a Garda chief superintendent in west Cork who helped to co-ordinate the search operation, paid tribute to all who had helped in the recovery operation. He said it would have been so important to his brother that all five crew were recovered.

“Fishing proved an instant fit for Michael. Michael loved fishing and fishing loved Michael,” Chief Supt Hayes said.

He recalled that while his brother loved all the boats he had owned, he was always particularly proud of the Tit Bonhomme.

Draped in the flag of the RNLI, for which he had served as cox on the Helviclifeboat, Mr Hayes’s coffin was shouldered from the church through the mist and rain and brought to the New Cemetery where prayers were said in Irish, English and Arabic Egyptian.

Morad Gharib recited a prayer in Arabic asking God to recognise the five dead men as martyrs, given that they died in one of the most dangerous of industries before mourners joined in moving renditions Fiddlers Greenand The Shoals of Herring.

Among other mourners were Mr Hayes’s brother Nicky, sisters Ann, Seppie and Martha, Minister for the Marine Simon Coveney, Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan and Comdt Michael Treacy, who represented the Taoiseach.