Film tells of sea mine disaster

A SHOCKING new film to be aired on BBC on Saturday reveals how 19 young Donegal men were blown to bits by a sea mine on Ballymanus beach in 1943 despite the local police chief’s foreknowledge the bomb had been drifting off shore for up to three hours prior to the disaster.

Thursday, 19th May 2011, 10:20 am

‘Ballymanus Disaster’ also reveals how a Fianna Fáil TD and a Roman Catholic priest pressurised relatives of those killed into dropping their calls for an offical inquiry despite the second greatest loss of human life in the Free State during World War II.

Producer Deaglan Ó Mocháin - who works with the Londonderry-based TV firm Dearcán Media - told the Sentinel how the relatives of those who died on Ballymanus beach near Annagry/The Rosses wanted want an officail apology from the state for what this new film reveals to be an official cover-up.

The facts are stark and simple. On May 10, 1943 a sea-mine exploded on Ballymanus beach, a few miles from the village of Mullaghduff.

Nineteen young men from the Donegal Gaeltacht were killed as a result. It was always thought locally that the tragedy could have been averted had the local authorities followed procedures relating to the clearance of mines.

While a number of surviving relatives persist in seeking an apology from the state ‘Ballymanus Disaster’ material demonstrates that a number of prominent locals and senior government figures combined to ensure that the full facts of the incident would never emerge.

Mr Ó Mocháin is from the local area and says it has been largely ignored by the mainstream media despite the heavy death toll.

“19 young men were killed, the second highest loss of life in the south during the entire WWII period (with only the North Strand bombings in Dublin having a higher number of casualties,” he explained.

“What is very interesting about the story is that it is hugely under reported - even in Donegal. I lived a few miles up the road from where it happened (it occurred near Annagry/The Rosses) and had never heard of it.

“We have managed to record the full story for the first time, we interviewed the remaining eye-witnesses and we did a bit of investigative journalism ourselves.

“Apart from the disproportionate human cost in such an isolated and under resourced area, we present evidence of an official cover up into what happened, as well as evidence that prominent locals put pressure on the relatives of those who died to drop demands for an inquiry into what happened,” he continued.

Whilst Mr Ó Mocháin and his team were making the film it became clear that the surviving family members still want answers.

“The relatives would still like to see an apology from the state, as it seems quite clear that a degree of official negligence contributed to the loss of life.

“Basically, the local Gardaí were aware that a sea mine was drifting ashore for over three hours prior to the explosion, and they failed to cordon off the area as per official instructions received by every coastal Garda station in 1941,” he said.

‘The Ballymanus Disaster’ or ‘Tubáiste Bhaile Mhánais’ will air this Saturday on BBC2 at 9.45pm.