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Dáil Éireann debate -
Friday, 2 Jul 1999

Vol. 507 No. 5

Expressions of Sympathy.

It is my sad duty, on behalf of the Government, to extend sympathy to the families and friends of the valiant members of the Air Corps who lost their lives in this morning's tragic accident, Captain Dave O'Flaherty, Captain Mick Baker, Sergeant Paddy Mooney and Corporal Niall Byrne. These are the first fatalities while on active service experienced by the Air Corps since the foundation of the State. It is all the more poignant that this tragedy occurred while the crew, having successfully carried out their role in a search and rescue mission, were themselves seeking safe harbour. It is a timely reminder of the risks undertaken daily by members of the Defence Forces in carrying out routine missions. Our thoughts are with the relatives and friends of the deceased and their grieving colleagues in the Air Corps and other branches of the Defence Forces. It is sad that they went to save and were themselves lost.

I have a deep sense of personal loss because I was flown on occasion by the men concerned when Taoiseach. The level of professionalism and dedication shown was at all times exemplary in the way in which it expressed the spirit of the Defence Forces and a sense of service to the people and democracy. This dreadful event is a sad reminder that when members of the Air Corps fly a helicopter they put their lives at risk to the point where their families would not have a father or husband. It is also a reminder to all those who put their lives at risk at sea that in so doing they are putting at risk the lives of those who may be called upon to rescue them. In this instance, those lives have been lost.

We share the deep sense of loss of the wife of David O'Flaherty, the family of Michael Baker, the wife and three children of Paddy Mooney and the family of Niall Byrne. It is the responsibility of every citizen to ensure this does not happen again by not taking unnecessary risks and by providing at all times the necessary resources for those engaged in air-sea and other forms of rescue operations to ensure their safety.

On behalf of the Labour Party, I extend our deep-felt sympathy to the families of the four men who died this morning in the tragic crash. It is a sad but necessary reminder of the dangers faced by some of those who work on our behalf. In this instance, having achieved their mission of saving lives, they lost their own. I pay tribute to the professionalism of the Defence Forces and extend our deep-felt sympathy to the wife of Captain Dave O'Flaherty, the family of Captain Michael Baker, the wife and children of Sergeant Paddy Mooney and the family of Corporal Niall Byrne. It is a reminder that we can take things for granted. It is only when there is a tragedy that this harsh reality is brought home to us.

On behalf of the Green Party, we were deeply sorry to hear of the deaths of the four members of the Air Corps killed in County Waterford. Our loss is deeply felt given our great admiration for the work of the Air Corps in routine and air-sea rescue operations. There was a recent example in north County Dublin which instilled in us a sense of pride. It is hard to comprehend that we are now thinking about the deaths of such brave people. We wish to say how sorry we are and to extend our sympathy to their families. Hopefully, attention will be given to whatever happened in this case to ensure that, in future, the risks taken by these people are minimised to the greatest extent.

As a Deputy who lives in Tramore and has a long involvement with Waterford airport, I extend my deepest sympathy and the deepest sympathy of the people of Tramore to the relatives of Air Corps members Captain Dave O'Flaherty, Captain Michael Baker, Sergeant Paddy Mooney and Corporal Niall Byrne who lost their lives on Tramore beach. Their deaths are all the more poignant in that they were returning from a rescue mission when this terrible accident occurred. We will always be in debt to people such as these men whose work is dedicated, at great risk to themselves, to the rescue of those in distress. Ar dheis Dé go raibh siad.

I join with other Members in offering deepest sympathy to the families of the four members of the Air Corps who tragically lost their lives last night. I have just been speaking to the Minister, Deputy Woods, on the telephone. He has extended deepest sympathy on behalf of all Members of the House to those on the ground. On behalf of the people of Waterford and of the south-east region, I offer deepest sympathy. I also wish to thank the rescue services in Bunmahon, Dunmore East and Tramore who were at the scene very quickly and were successful in locating the helicopter.

Members rose.