Radio documentary on Evelyn Marie wins prestigious award

The daughter of a Donegal fisherman who died in the 1975 Evelyn Marie trawler tragedy this week received an international award for the radio documentary she produced on the subject, “Searching for Answers”.

The daughter of a Donegal fisherman who died in the 1975 Evelyn Marie trawler tragedy this week received an international award for the radio documentary she produced on the subject, “Searching for Answers”.

Helena Gallagher, a television and radio producer, said she will continue her campaign for release of a government report on the tragedy.

“My fight’s just starting now, really,” she told the Democrat yesterday, speaking from New York City.

Helena won the Gold Radio for editorial/viewpoint programme at Monday’s New York Festivals International Radio Awards. Her documentary, “Searching for Answers”, was broadcast earlier this year as part of the RTÉ Radio One series, “Documentary on One.”

Helena, who is from Arranmore Island, has campaigned strongly for an official report into the incident to be released to the families of the six men who lost their lives on the Evelyn Marie. She was in contact with the government as recently as last week, but has been unsuccessful in securing the report.

Helena said she will continue her campaign, even if it means taking her case to Europe.

“I’m going to continue fighting,” Helena said. “The fact that they won’t come back and give me answers makes me more determined. I deserve answers and the rest of the families deserve answers.

“I was four when my father was lost at sea. I’m 40 now,” she said. “I want answers.”

Hughie Gallagher, Paddy Bonner, Johnny O’Donnell, Rolo Faughnan, Tom Ham and Joe O’Donnell died in the Evelyn Marie tragedy. The trawler sank in January 1975, off Rathlin O’Byrne Island. The bodies of four members of the crew, including that of Helena’s father, Hughie, were not recovered.

Less than two years later, the Carrig Una went down at the same location in November 1976, with the loss of five lives.

A preliminary report by a government marine surveyor was ordered in the aftermath of the Evelyn Marie sinking, but the then-minister for transport decided against a formal investigation and told the Dáil the preliminary report would remain confidential. The contents of the report have never been made public.

“Maybe the findings of the first inquiry could have saved the Carrig Una, but we don’t know because we don’t know what was in the findings,” Ms. Gallagher told the Democrat in December of 2010. “And surely the fishermen who fish those waters have a right to know what is in those findings as well.”

In acknowledging the award, the broadcaster said she wanted to thank her mother, Mary Gallagher, and Mary Coyle, Mary O’Donnell and other mothers who lost sons at sea; and Michelle Bonner, Annette Gallagher and others who lost their fathers.

“I wasn’t just accepting the award for myself. I was accepting it for all of them,” Helena said.

In accepting the award, Helena told the international audience that making the documentary was the most difficult thing she had ever done.

“For me it was a personal journey, to go back and find out what happened to my dad -- and not just my dad but other fishermen lost at sea,” she said. “It was a very, very hard documentary for me to make because of my personal attachment to it.” Helena said she felt quite emotional when a snippet of her documentary was played for the audience in New York.

Radio programmes from 25 countries were nominated for the awards. “It was overwhelming to get that recognition on an international level,” Helena said. She was also grateful to Liam O’Brien, series producer for RTÉ Radio One’s “Documentary on One.”

Helena lives in Glasgow, where she runs her own production company, HG Productions. She has dedicated the award to her mother.

“I’m looking forward to returning to Arranmore Island to give the award to her,” Helena said.

The 30-minute documentary can be heard on line at the “Documentary On One” archive, http://www.rte.ie/radio1/doconone.