Carrickatine; twenty years on

“As sore now as the day it happened”

page 17 Carrickatine

Hundreds will gather at St. Mary’s Church, Ballybrack this Sunday at noon to remember those lost on the Carrickatine twenty years ago.

Six local fishermen died when the Greencastle-based trawler sank without trace during a raging storm on November 15, 1995.

It was the worst fishing tragedy in modern Irish history.

The largest rescue mission ever launched by the State failed to locate the boat or any of the missing crewmen and was eventually wound down the following February, when grief-stricken relatives huddled together on board the ‘LE Eithne’ for a funeral at sea.

The tragedy, which led to the introduction of a number of new safety measures on fishing boats, will never be forgotten in Inishowen.

Two decades on, and the Carrickatine families remain united by grief; their loved ones still missing.

Josephine Kelly, who lost her husband John and teenage son Stephen, said the pain has not been eased by the passage of time.

“It’s as sore now as the day it happened. Their deaths have left a void in our family that will never be filled.”

Gina Harkin’s only two brothers, Conal and Jeremy McKinney, died when the boat vanished. It took her ten years to ‘get my head around it’.

“You don’t ever get over it, you just get on with it. You have no choice really. If you don’t get on with it, you’ll go under.”

Bernard Gormley didn’t make it home that night as planned to celebrate his eighteenth birthday with family and friends.

His mother Eileen still thinks of him every time she gazes out to sea.

“The way I look at it, the boat is his coffin and the sea is his grave.”

Bernard’s sister Mary said her late father Cyril ‘broke his heart’ the day his son went missing.

Mary Doherty sometimes struggles to believe that her son Terry has now been gone for twenty years.

“In a way it seems like only yesterday but then when you think of all the grandchildren and weddings and everything that’s happened in the past twenty years it seems like an awful long time.”

Former Moville parish priest Fr. George McLaughlin, who found himself at the centre of a media storm, said the loss of the Carrickatine had left a ‘terrible mark’ on the community.

He said his abiding memory of the tragedy is the strength and dignity of the bereaved families.

“The families were tremendously brave. They all faced up to it. They were broken-hearted and destroyed but they kept their heads up. It was very, very hard on them.”

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