President pays tribute to fishermen
President Michael D Higgins has paid tribute to five seamen who lost their lives following the sinking of the Tit Bonhomme trawler.
Search teams and the close-knit fishing community of Union Hall in west Cork, where the fishing vessel sank in stormy seas, were also praised during an ecumenical service.
The President said it was a time to honour the memory of the five lives that were lost at sea - Tit Bonhomme's skipper, Michael Hayes and his crew Wael Mohamed, Attaia Shaban, Saied Ali Eldin, and Kevin Kershaw.
"On behalf of the people of Ireland, I wish to express my sincere sympathies to all who lost loved ones on 15th January this year, to the sole survivor of this tragedy, Wael's brother, Abdul Mohammed, and to the partners, wives, parents, children and friends of these five men who have been lost to the force of the sea," said Mr Higgins.
"Coping with and learning to live with loss is the great challenge you face but you can take heart from the fact that you have such strong communities around you at this difficult time.
"As fishing people you know too the perils of life at sea. You understand the cruelty in how the sea gives and takes away life; its beauty and attraction, its power and devastation."
The Tit Bonhomme sank after hitting Adam's Island at the entrance to Glandore Bay in stormy seas on the way back to shore after a three-day prawn fishing trip. There was one survivor.
The bodies of three other crew members - Kevin Kershaw, 21, originally from Dublin but who had been living in Clonakilty and was on his first deep sea fishing trip, and Egyptians Attaia Shaban, 26, and Wael Mohammed, 35 - were recovered in the following days.
The remains of skipper Michael Hayes, brother of Bandon-based Superintendent Tom Hayes, was discovered on February 8. But the west Cork and Egyptian communities held a vigil on the pier until the final body - Egyptian deckhand Saied Ali Eldin, 23 - was found by search teams two days later.
As President of Ireland, Mr Higgins said he wanted to express his gratitude to the men and women of the Naval Service, the Coast Guard, An Garda Siochana, the teams of volunteer divers and hundreds of volunteers who helped and assisted in the recovery operation.