Southeast communities mourn death of fisherman

Hopes fade for Willie Whelan as Joe Sinnott pronounced dead after found off Duncannon

Fishing communities along the southeast coast were in mourning on Sunday night following a tragedy which claimed the life of one fisherman while hopes of a finding a second man alive were fading.

The tragedy happened shortly after midnight on Saturday when the 12-metre steel-hulled boat, Alize, fishing out of Duncannon in Co Wexford, went down some 6½ miles off Hook Head.

On board were father of four Joe Sinnott (65) from Kilmore Quay and recently married skipper Willie Whelan (41) from Fethard-on-Sea who comes from a well-known fishing family in Co Wexford.

The alarm was raised when the Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon from Alize, which had been out fishing for scallops for 36 hours, was activated and a major search was launched.


Irish Coastguard Sikorsky helicopter Rescue 117 was tasked to assist while RNLI lifeboats from Kilmore Quay in Co Wexford and Dunmore East in Co Waterford were also launched to assist in the operation.

Unresponsive male

Rescue 117 located an unresponsive male, Mr Sinnott, in the water some four nautical miles off Duncannon and airlifted him to Waterford Airport from where he was rushed by ambulance to University Hospital Waterford in Ardkeen.

Paramedics worked to try and revive Mr Sinnott, but he failed to regain consciousness and was pronounced dead sometime later at the hospital.

Meanwhile, the search for Mr Whelan continued throughout the day with the RNLI lifeboats being joined by local fishing boats.

An Irish Coastguard Sikorsky helicopter from Dublin, Rescue 116, also carried out sweeps of the sea as part of the search, co-ordinated by the Naval Service’s LE Ciara, until the search was suspended for the night at about 6pm.

Last night, locals in Kilmore Quay were still in a state of shock at the tragedy. Parish priest Fr Denis Doyle said everyone's thoughts were with the families of Mr Sinnott and Mr Whelan.

“I heard about it when I went down to say Mass this morning – our thoughts and prayers are with Joe Sinnott’s family , his wife Mary and daughters, Bridget Siobhán and Bernie and his son, Michael, and with the Whelan family as well.”

New year ‘tragedy’

Fr Doyle's comments were echoed by local Fine Gael Cllr Jim Moore from Kilmore Quay who described the late Mr Sinnott as well-respected and well-regarded in the community, having lived and worked all his life locally.

“The mood here today is very sombre and it’s come as a real shock that the first weekend of a new year would start with such a tragedy especially with people only getting back to work with boats tied up over the Christmas.

“Joe would have been a life-time fisherman – he did his own thing and never bothered anyone. He would have been a quiet individual – a lovely man really and our thoughts are with his poor family today.”

The scene of this weekend's tragedy is not far from where the Pere Charles went down with the loss of five men in 2007. Cllr Moore said the latest tragedy brought home yet again the perilous nature of the fishing industry.

“Unfortunately it’s the nature of the industry – when things go wrong, they can go very wrong. Our only hope at this stage is that we can complete the search and recover the other missing man because the weather is breaking tonight.

“I suppose being exposed to that sort of threat creates a sort of resilience in fishing communities. It goes with the lifestyle and the rebound is that when tragedy does happen, it brings out the best and the community rallies around.”

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times