Envoy, O'Rourke to meet on air crash


The British ambassador, Dame Veronica Sutherland, is to meet the Minister for Public Enterprise, Mrs O'Rourke, next week about the 1968 Tuskar Rock air tragedy in which 61 people died. The ambassador wanted to have the meeting before her departure from Dublin on Friday week. The tragedy, the biggest aviation disaster in Irish history, is the main item on the agenda.

The Minister of State for the Marine, Mr Hugh Byrne, had a background meeting with the ambassador last year about the disaster. A spokeswoman for the Minister said last night that she had no indication that the British had anything new to say about the tragedy. "There is no indication that they have any explanation for the accident. It is just a courtesy visit," a spokeswoman said.

Mrs O'Rourke met the ambassador at the funeral of the Quinn children in the North last summer. It was then that she said she would like to meet the Minister to discuss the Tuskar Rock tragedy.

Mrs O'Rourke met relatives of the victims of the crash on the 30th anniversary of the tragedy this year. The crash, on March 24th, 1968, claimed the lives of all 57 passengers and four crew members of the Aer Lingus Viscount aircraft St Phelim. The craft was on a scheduled flight from Cork Airport to Heathrow in London when it plunged into St George's Channel off the Wexford coast.

The craft was last heard of at 11.37 a.m., when London air traffic control picked up a garbled message which included the words "one thousand feet, spinning rapidly".

It was the second fatal crash of an Aer Lingus aircraft since the company began operations in 1936. In 1952, an Aer Lingus Dakota crashed killing 23 people.

Thirty-five of the Tuskar Rock victims had addresses in Ireland and all except one lived in Co Cork. Also among the dead were residents of Switzerland, Britain and Belgium.

Last year, evidence supporting the theory that the plane had been hit by an out-of-control British missile was shown by RTE's Prime Time programme. Although the British government had always maintained that there was no testing at the Aberporth testing facility in midWales on the weekend of the illfated flight, the programme showed anomalies in the facility's log-book.

Relatives of those who died last year formed a group to press for a public inquiry.