• March 27, 2018

The 50th commemoration of the 61 victims of the crash of Aer Lingus flight EI 172 (St. Phelim) took place on Sat, last in Rosslare Harbour, Co. Wexford, Ireland. The flight had been on its way from Cork to London. It is Ireland’s worst aviation tragedy.

For background on the crash, the  subsequent investigations and the role of the CL in seeking to assist see: https://www.celticleague.net/news/irish-sea-air-tragedy-50th-anniversary/

All surviving relatives had been invited to the day long events and some ninety came including the widow of the pilot. The events were organised by the local St. Phelim 50th Anniversary Committee and supported by Wexford County Council, the Dept of Defence, Aer Lingus and many others, including all the rescue services who participated in recovery attempts at the time.

In the morning the relatives were taken on an Irish Navy vessel, LÉ Eithne, to the crash site at sea off the Tuskar Rock lighthouse. They were accompanied by a small flotilla comprised of the three Wexford lifeboats, trawlers and local vessels. At about the time the crash occurred, wreaths were left in the sea by the relatives who particularly appreciated this aspect of the commemoration.

In the afternoon in Rosslare Harbour Memorial Park further ceremonies took place. These ceremonies were attended by the Convenor of the Celtic League, Cathal Ó Luain and the International Branch Secretary, Patricia Bridson. The ceremonies began with the lowering to half-mast of the flags of the States of those who died (Ireland, Belgium, Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, UK and USA) as the Last Post played (see photo below, which also shows the new memorial stone, bottom right).

Speeches were delivered by the Mayor of Wexford, a Minister of State from the Dept. Defence and Leo Coy, Chairman of the St. Phelim 50th Commemoration Committee. A short Ecumenical Service took place; Catholic, Church of Ireland and Humanist (the Humanist celebrant, Siobhán Walls, was a daughter of one of the victims). Following this a new granite memorial stone was unveiled which is wrapped with a chain with 61 links to remind of the sixty one victims. The unveiling of the new stone was performed by the widow of the pilot (Capt. Barney O’Beirne) and the Mayor of Wexford, Jim Moore.

A wreath laying ceremony then took place. Wreaths were laid on behalf of the Irish Government, the people of Wexford, Aer Lingus, Irish Airline Pilots Association, Irish Coastguard, RNLI, and others. The flags of the States were then raised, and Reveille played, concluding the programme. The events were reported on RTE1 evening TV News.

The emphasis of the ceremonies seemed directed at closure. Some relatives however, such as Jerome McCormick, do not accept the findings of the second report which ruled out the possibility of a drone or activity associated with the UK missile range in Aberporth, South Wales. Certainly, it seemed to ignore eye witness evidence listed in the first report.  As pointed out by Bernard Moffatt, the comments below of eye witnesses match very well the livery of missile range aircraft –  which operated at the time from RAF Llanbedr to support range operations at Aberporth. (see photo below). The smaller aircraft on the right is a drone.

“Four (4) witnesses, Nos. 3, 3(a), 4 and 4(a), “after Mass and before dinner”, at Fethard saw an aeroplane with very red colour on wings and tail (“as if on fire”, but no smoke). Aeroplane went off in a south easterly direction. 8. 11.02. Two (2) witnesses, Nos. 13 and 14, near Carnsore P”


Issued by Cathal Ó Luain, Convenor, Celtic League



Flags of the States of those who died (Ireland, Belgium, Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, UK and USA) fly at Half Mast (note also the new memorial stone, bottom right)

Missile range aircraft –  which operated at the time from RAF Llanbedr to support range operations at Aberporth. The smaller aircraft on the right is a drone.

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