‘Loss gets harder as the year goes on’

A tragedy that touched the hearts of the nation exactly 12 months ago was remembered in a fishing village last night.

‘Loss gets harder as the year goes on’

And two cultures were reunited in grief as Union Hall in West Cork marked the first anniversary of the sinking of the Tit Bonhomme.

Five fishermen, including three Egyptians, lost their lives just minutes from their landing port.

From dawn yesterday, as first light broke on ared-tinged horizon, locals, friends, and relatives were on the pier side, lost in their thoughts.

Last night, all the families came together at St Bridget’s Church as Bishop of Cork and Ross John Buckley recalled the phenomenal community spirit that captured the country’s attention during a 26-day sea and shore search for the bodies.

“The tragedy in Union Hall touched the hearts of the whole nation, but what also touched the country was the way you came together, from the first morning, and spared no effort in your desire to help the families and bring them home to their loved ones,” said Bishop Buckley.

“What you all did, showed the true spirit of this community.

“I experienced that when, during my visit here I joined with you for prayers on the pier side. We had a coming together of two cultures, united in grief. If only this could happen in other parts of the world, what a difference it would make.”

The sole survivor of the tragedy was crewman Abdul Mohammed, 43, whose brother Wael, 25, drowned. Abdul returned from Egypt for last night’s service at which a cousin, Morad Gharib, a Muslim spiritual leader, joined in the prayers with Church of Ireland dean Chris Peters and new parish priest Fr Gerard Thornton.

The other victims of the Glandore Harbour tragedy were skipper Michael Hayes, 52; Kevin Kershaw, 21; Attaia Shaban, 26; and Saied Ali Eldin, 23.

Caitlin Uí hAodha, Mr Hayes’s widow, travelled from Ring, Co Waterford, with their children, Lia, Micheál, Ferdia, Ealga, and Dearbhaila.

She said: “We had Mass for Michael in Ring on Sunday so it’s nice to come back for the first anniversary, to have Mass with the people of Union Hall.

“The first year passes and you are in a state of shock, I suppose, but it gets harder as the year goes on. It’s been a long year and it was difficult coming into the new year but getting today over is a big thing. We are just concentrating on getting over it.”

Before their return home, Caitlin said: “This day last year was the only day of any significance in 2012 really. That’s all we will remember it for.”

Bishop Buckley added: “Unfortunately, the fishing industry is no stranger to tragedy. Our fishermen often set out in treacherous conditions to provide a living for their families.

“I know, from speaking to members of the Egyptian community, they are particularly grateful to fishermen like Michael Hayes for giving them the opportunity to work on board their boats.

“Indeed, at this time, we remember also other families around our coast who have suffered.”

Also remembered in prayers last night was the late Nora Deasy, who passed away in October. She helped mobilise the community into providing food and refreshments for hundreds of divers who assisted during the bleak weeks of the search.

And there were thoughts too for one of the divers, Kevin Hodnett, who died last March.

Fr Pierce Cormac, a native of the village, said that all the families had expressed the wish to hold a remembrance service. “They particularly wanted to thank everyone for their phenomenal support as they awaited the recovery of the bodies.

“There was such an outpouring of support, not only locally, but from so many individuals and state bodies,” he said.

“The families were asked what they would like to do and, after some consideration, they all said: ‘We would like to come together, to be together on that day.’ They wanted to be together in thought and prayer and in support for each other. They also wanted to acknowledge the concern, kindness, and hospitality shown by the local community.”

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