Michael Kingston, whose father was one of 50 people who died when a massive explosion on a French oil tanker occurred at Whiddy Island 42 years ago, has said they are seeking an apology from the Irish Government for "appalling failures".

He was speaking ahead of a documentary that will be broadcast on the Co Cork tragedy on RTÉ Radio 1 this weekend, 'Documentary On One: Fire In The Sky'.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Mr Kingston, who is the Vice President of the French Irish Association of the relatives and friends of the Betelguese, said his father died in "atrocious circumstances" where "no rescue took place because of catastrophic safety failures on the night".

He said the families of the French, Irish and British victims who died that night have had to live with that and the fallout afterwards, with "no resolution".

The Betelguese

Mr Kingston, who is now an international maritime lawyer, said he has consequently worked on international regulation to ensure that these sort of things do not happen again.

He believes that "a number of people lied to the tribunal about what happened that night and tried to shift liability to the tanker".

"There was a complete failure in administration of justice by the Irish State," he said.

He also claimed that the regulatory system that was in place in the run-up to the disaster was "appalling".

"There was a focus on what the companies did but there was never any spotlight on what our departments were doing and unfortunately we are still in a similar situation today where we are not implementing regulation."

He said the families have also endured "the failure of the Irish Government to support commemorations" adding: "We have had enough".

He said because of "modern regulatory failures to prevent further deaths in Irish maritime" the families of the victims are bringing an action to have their loved ones' death certs rectified.

Michael Kingston

"My father is determined to have died by drowning, due to accidental drowning, when in fact he died because of unlawful breaches of regulation," said Mr Kingston.

He said they have never received a State apology for the "appalling regulatory failures" and in the documentary they make an appeal for the Government to "show decency and meet and issue that apology for the appalling failures in administration of justice and failure to implement regulation".


RTÉ Archives: Whiddy Island Disaster


Mr Kingston said they are also calling on the Government to take regulation more seriously to protect fishermen and others at sea.

In the documentary, firefighter Brendan O'Donoghue describes the night of the tragedy, seeing the fire and the noise of it "roaring".

"Something unbelievable. Burning oil is like, you can imagine a frying pan burning, about ten million of them roaring. The oil was pumping out of the tanker and coming up on to the water. Just feeding the fire," he said.

He recalled how frightening it was as they made their way over to the fire.

"As soon as we got to the point where we could see what was in front of us, we said "no one could survive this...the whole water was on fire".