Anyone with any knowledge of what happened in the Tuskar air disaster which claimed 61 lives should come forward even at this late stage to provide answers for the bereaved, relatives were told at a special mass off remembrance today to the mark the 50th anniversary of the tragedy.
Ballyphehane Parish Priest, Fr Michael Murphy said the relatives of the 57 passengers and four crew who perished on board Aer Lingus Flight EI 712 when it crashed into the sea near Tuskar Rock on March 24th, 1968 still craved and deserved to know what caused the crash.
“You, the relatives have been through sheer hell - it would be good to know even that this stage why exactly the crash took place - someone has knowledge and unfortunately, echoing the views of people here in Cork, they still want to know the truth of what happened.
“We have so much spin and so many clever talkers that the truth can get lost it in but please - and it doesn’t take an inquiry- the knowledge must be there with someone and I would appeal that during this week they would let the relatives know exactly what happened,” he said.
Fr Murphy was speaking at the end of a concelebrated Mass of Remembrance at the Church of the Assumption in Ballyphehane on Cork’s Southside which has strong ties with Cork Airport where the Aer Lingus Vickers Viscount, St Phelim took off on the morning of March 24th, 1968.
Among those at the special mass of Remembrance was the Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr Tony Fitzgerald and the Mayor of Cork County, Cllr Declan Hurley while President Michael D Higgins was represented by his Aide-de-Camp, Comdt Brian Walsh.
Bishop of Cork and Ross, Dr John Buckley said that the Tuskar Air Disaster was a particular tragedy for Cork as 36 of those who died were from the city or county, with many of them returning to London where so many Cork people had gone to search for employment in the 1950s and 1960s.
"I remember the day very well I was just appointed as a young priest at Farranferris College and I was returning there from my home parish of Iveleary when we got a news flash that a plane was missing and later on that evening, we were told there was little hope of finding survivors."
Concelebrating the mass with Bishop Buckley was Fr Charlie Nyhan from Ballinspittle in West Cork who lost his brother John in the tragedy and, speaking after mass, he said it was a particularly poignant moment to meet other relatives for whom the day also held such vivid memories.
"I was in Peru at the time and communication between Ireland and Peru was not very good in those days and I was thinking of John and all his fellow passengers and I was thinking of my mother and father and my brother and sister and all our relatives at home.
“I would have liked to be there but it wasn’t feasible to come home at the time and I didn’t get home until December - there was no funeral because John’s body was never found so it’s very special to have this celebration and remember them all again and the loss that everyone felt at the time.
“The grief hasn’t disappeared even though it was 50 years ago. It is still there but it is more peaceful after all those years. We still don’t know what really did happen and that is an unanswered question that we would like to get more facts and clarity about. “
The names of all 61 victims of the crash were read out and 61 candles were lit in their memory during the mass which was also attended by many retired Cork Airport and Aer Lingus staff who were working at airport at the time of the tragedy
Prayers were also said at the mass for four people who perished at Cork Airport in August 8th, 1964 when a Piper Comanche crashed and six people who died at Cork Airport on February 10th, 2011 when the Manx 2 flight from Belfast crashed with the loss of two crew and four passengers.