THE community and rescue services involved in the Tit Bonhomme Trawler search and rescue operations last January, received thanks and appreciation with an award this week.
Bill Deasy and Fr Pierce Cormac received Cork Persons of the Month awards to mark there individual work and as representatives of all those involved in the search over the 26 days.
Five men died when the Tit Bonhomme trawler went down at the mouth of Glandore Harbour on January 15, 2012.
The tragedy sparked one of the largest and most concentrated search and recovery operations in the history of the State.
The Irish Coastguard and the Naval Service coordinated the search of Glandore Harbour, with assistance from the Civil Defence, the gardaí, and local fishermen every day for over three weeks.
They were supported by hundreds of local volunteers. Their efforts resulted in the recovery of three bodies within days of the tragedy.
But the search for the skipper Michael Hayes and the remaining Egyptian crewman Saied Ali Eldin continued for an incredible 26 days.
The people of Union Hall never gave up hope of finding the lost fishermen. Almost 100 civilian divers joined the search in the later stages.
Throughout the massive search operation, the people of Union Hall provided constant support to the relatives of the missing, and those involved in the search. They opened their hearts, and their homes, to the grieving relatives.
They established a feeding tent on the pier, which supplied the relatives, and those involved in the search operation with hot food and drinks every day.
They also organised inter-faith prayer services on the pier which relatives of the missing said kept them going in difficult times.
The intensity and focus of the search, which resulted in the recovery of all five bodies, simply would not have been possible without their support.
While dozens of people were involved, Bill Deasy and Fr Pierce Cormac personified the community effort.
Their efforts were an inspiration and an example to the country of what can be achieved in the face of tragedy and adversity when everyone works together. However the pain will always remain in the community, of the loss of skipper Michael Hayes and his crewmen Kevin Kershaw, Wael Mahamed, Attaia Shaban and Saied Ali Eldin.
“Through the multi-faith prayers services, in the hard, gruelling and exhausting days of the search and the intervening periods between the recovery of one crew member and the next, you sustained the community, nourishing the spirit, while the pier-side kitchen nourished the body,” said President Michael D Higgins at a Ecumenical Service at Union Hall last Sunday.