James Ward, PA
The issue of legal costs imposed on the families of the victims of the Irish Coast Guard helicopter R116 crash “will be resolved very quickly”, the Transport Minister has said.'
Eamon Ryan denied that the Government objected to the awarding of legal costs to the families arising from a Department of Transport review into the 2017 incident, which claimed four lives.
Captains Dara Fitzpatrick (45) and Mark Duffy (51), and winchmen Paul Ormsby (53) and Ciaran Smith (38) died when their Sikorsky S-92 helicopter crashed into Blackrock Island, off the coast of Co Mayo, during a rescue mission.
Speaking during Leaders’ Questions on Thursday, Mr Ryan said the issue of costs will be addressed, and steps taken to ensure it does not happen again to add to the hurt experienced by families.
The Green Party leader said: “Absolutely it is in our interest, in all our interests, that the families are not put into any further difficulty or stress, to add to the tragedy that they’ve had to cope with.
“So it would be scandalous if we were fighting against things such as cost, but it’s not true.
“I am very confident that, following the completion of the review group’s work and their report, what I would expect then is the imminent publication of the full report from the air accident investigation inspector, that that will be resolved very, very quickly.
“And, more critically, then we also look to learn the lessons that will be contained in those reports, so that the other families of other people in our air rescue system have confidence that we do learn lessons, that we recognise the critically important work that they do, that they continue to do, day in, day out.”
Mr Ryan said he will engage with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to ensure the issue of costs is resolved.
“There will be no attempt by the State here not to look after families, not to make sure that, quickly, that issue of legal costs is resolved,” he said.
He added that legal costs “will not be an issue in the coming days – that will be resolved very, very quickly”.
Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty called on the Minister to clarify whether his department opposes applications for families to have their costs covered.
He said: “The review team made a determination into this, and part of their determination, they said it would have been difficult, if not impossible, for the commander’s family to represent its own interests, and the late commander’s interest, without having legal representation.
“Members of the families talk about the hurt that they have, talk about being dragged into a process not of their making.
“It’s the helicopter company that has taken this review and that your department strongly objected to the cost being covered.”
Mr Ryan denied the claims.
“My department has not strenuously fought against payment of such costs,” he said.
“The issue of costs, as I said, were addressed in that report. At no stage did our department strenuously fight against that.”