By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — New evidence is emerging of a coverup surrounding the 1968 Tuskar Rock tragedy in which 61 people were killed when an Aer Lingus plane, the St. Phelim, plunged into the sea off Wexford, according to a member of the relatives group that has been campaigning for a new inquiry.
On Thursday, the relatives will meet an Irish investigation team that is reviewing all surviving documentation surrounding the disaster.
Following discussions between Enterprise Minister Mary O’Rourke and British Transport Minister Glenda Jackson, it was agreed to reopen all the files, but many of them are missing or have been destroyed.
"People are getting a conscience and are coming forward to us privately. We are getting information bit by bit," said Jerome McCormick, whose brother died in the still unexplained crash.
There has been speculation since the crash that the plane may have been struck by a surface-to-air missile or a target drone, but the British have denied anything was in the air on the Sunday of the accident.
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Only 14 of the 61 bodies were recovered and McCormick believes the others were either taken away or deliberately left on the seabed.
"I have information about two formal Royal Navy divers who were involved after the crash," McCormick said. "I believe these people will give evidence if the Official Secrets Act is waived and they are allowed to tell their own story of what happened. Their evidence is crucial and all of them are still alive."
McCormick said the divers had been extremely upset about what they were ordered to do.
"I have been informed they were told to remove the bodies from the plane," he said. "This was countermanded and then they were again ordered to remove the bodies. They were very unhappy about it and there was one officer who pleaded a moral case against what was being done.
"I also have information that they were instructed to drop the main fuselage of the plane when they were bringing it up. Everybody expected at the time that 30 or 40 funerals would emerge from that fuselage. The Irish navy were totally hoodwinked."
McCormick said the relatives’ group would wait for the current review to be completed before deciding on future action.
"From what I know at the moment the effort is not sincere," he said. "Most of the documents were lost, destroyed, allegedly never kept or have disappeared, often in mysterious circumstances. What is there left to review?
"There was a lot of nod and a wink and hush-hush involved, an attitude of don’t ask too many questions and we will get this sorted out quickly. I think they will look for a scapegoat, like corrosion, to blame.
"The truth is too embarrassing for some people. There is a huge wall of secrecy. No one knows anything about anything. It’s unbelievable. There are 14 different government and military institutions that will tell you they haven’t any information.
"But we will not go away. We are not going to take it. The relatives want to know what happened to the bodies. That is the main thing for us; to pay our final respects with dignity."
McCormick said they will be submitting a list of questions the group wants answered to the Irish investigation team before they meet their British counterparts next month.
"We are submitting 29 questions, but you could add another 1,000, and the sad part is that they have all been around unanswered for 31 years," he said.