Northern Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness was almost a passenger on the flight that crashed in Cork yesterday killing six people.
The flight from Manx Airlines from Belfast to Cork came down in heavy fog on its third attempt to land.
McGuinness of Sinn Fein was due to take the flight to begin canvassing in Cork for party candidate’s in the Irish general election.
"This is a route I have travelled on a number of occasions. In fact, I am going to be in Munster tomorrow and I had contemplated travelling on this flight, but that changed due to other circumstances.
"So I am very conscious of the fact that this is a flight that is frequented by people from the business community, people who have family reasons to travel to Cork and indeed people who are involved in tourism.
"Our hearts are broken for those people who have lost loved ones in this incident and we want to send our condolences and very deep sympathy on what is a very tragic and traumatic time for themselves."
Irish, British and Spanish air accident experts have begun an investigation into yesterday’s plane crash in Co. Cork in which six people lost their lives and several others were seriously injured.
Meanwhile, experts from the Department of Transport were dispatched to the site of the crash yesterday to examine the wreckage.
Together with a second unit they will examine forensics as well as radar records, air traffic control tapes, weather reports and the condition of the aircraft.
They have recovered the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder, also known as the black box.
Investigators are hopeful that a preliminary report will be compiled within a month which will allow them to identify the basic facts.
The victims have been named as Jordi Gola Lopez, a Spanish national who was the pilot, Andrew Castle, a British national, he was the co-pilot on board, Richard Noble, originally from Derbyshire in the UK, Brendan McAleese from Co. Tyrone, a first cousin of Dr Martin McAleese, the husband of President Mary McAleese , Pat Cullinan, originally from Co. Tyrone and Michael Evans originally from the UK.
A statement issued by police yesterday evening said the victims included three men from the North, two men from the U.K., and a male Spanish national. Formal confirmation of the victims’ identities is expected later today.
Speaking at Trinity College yesterday evening, President McAleese expressed her condolences to all those involved.
"Behind the headlines and news reports lie the personal stories of grieving families and friends whose hearts are surely broken as they struggle to come to terms with the abrupt and devastating loss of their loved one. I am especially conscious of the pain being experienced tonight by all of the bereaved as one of the deceased was Brendan McAleese, my husband Martin's cousin," she said.
"His family have lost a fine and loving husband, father, son and brother and their awful grief is replicated in the lives of all those who lost their loved ones in today's crash," she added.