Tsunami victims' relatives get visit funds

The Government is to pay for relatives of the four Irish victims of the south-east Asia tsunami to attend a remembrance service…

The Government is to pay for relatives of the four Irish victims of the south-east Asia tsunami to attend a remembrance service in Thailand, it emerged today.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs said €20,000 had been made available to enable families to travel to the St Stephen's Day memorial.

"The Irish Government, in a small way, is happy to provide funding to the families of the young people who lost their lives in Thailand. I am deeply conscious that this will be a very difficult and sad occasion for the families," Mr Ahern said.

To mark the first anniversary of the tragedy, the Thai government invited one member from each family of the four Irish people who died to travel to the service. But the Minister stepped in with the funding to ensure two members of each family could attend.


Four young Irish tourists were killed in the disaster.

Eilis Finnegan (27) from Ballyfermot, Dublin, a team leader with United Airlines was identified by her boyfriend Barry Murphy on January 3rd. Lucy Coyle (29) from Glenageary, Co Dublin, an accountant who had been living in London was identified almost three months April after the disaster from dental records. Michael Murphy, a 24-year-old nautical studies graduate from Blackwater, Co Wexford was not identified until May. Experts used dental records and fingerprints taken from his remains to match those on his lecture notes.

And Conor Keightley, 30, Cookstown, Co Tyrone had been on holiday in the resort of Krabi were the tsunami struck. His body was identified in mid-January.

Mr Ahern has written to the four families personally to inform them the money had been made available.

He said: "The events of December 26th, 2004 are hard to fully comprehend even at the distance of one year.

"So many lives were shattered by this cataclysmic event, without warning and in such a final and brutal manner, that I am sure that the families are still coming to terms with the loss of their loved ones."

Each family will be given €5,000 to allow two people to make the trip. The Department of Foreign Affairs has also offered to help with travel arrangements.

In total the Government has provided €20 million to help with relief efforts in south-east Asia. Private donations are thought to have topped €40 million.

It is understood Mr Ahern is planning to visit the area in the New Year to see how the money is being spent following reports by special envoy, Chris Flood.

The number of dead and missing in an Asian earthquake and tsunami is at least 232,010. The wave crashed into Sri Lanka, India and Thailand drowning thousands and swamping tourist islands right across the Indian Ocean.