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Appreciating the Role of Community Lifeboats

9th August 2019
Waterford City River Rescue Community Lifeboat Waterford City River Rescue Community Lifeboat

There are 15 Community Rescue Boats around Ireland.

These are a nationwide group of independent, voluntary rescue boats, which reflect the concern of local communities for water safety in their areas and which were generally established following local drowning tragedies.

They provide additional safety coverage in addition to the RNLI and the Coast Guard. Over my years in journalistic work, I’ve met many of those involved and heard how the local communities fund their operations.

They have worked with the Coast Guard and the RNLI.


Following the announcement of the new national search-and-rescue plan to underpin coordination and conducting of all search-and-rescue activities in Ireland I have had a few contacts from people involved in the operation of community lifeboats. They expressed the opinion that they “should not be forgotten” in the overall context of national search-and-rescue operations.”

These lifeboats are trained and administered by Irish Water Safety and are a “declared resource” available to the Coast Guard for search-and-rescue, responding on a seven-day round-the-year availability.

There are another 28 locations where communities also operate rescue and recovery craft that are not a Coast Guard “declared resource.”

The voluntary rescue boats local groups have a VAT exemption allowing them to reclaim this tax on the operation and running costs. This was provided through a Ministerial Statutory Instrument signed in the 80s by then Minister for Finance, Alan Dukes.

“It is important, vital to our funding,” it was stated to me.

From what I have been told there is some concern amongst these voluntary independent community boats as to how they are regarded within the new national search-and-rescue plan. I have even heard that some civil servants have been querying the continuance of VAT exemption on their operations.

They are entirely voluntary operations which demonstrate the commitment of local communities and their concern for safety on the water. Their presence is an additional water safety element that has proved its worth

• On my Podcast this week below, John Leech, CEO of Water Safety Ireland, explains the role of the community lifeboats, speaking on THIS ISLAND NATION radio and how the Government gave VAT exemption to their operations.

Published in Tom MacSweeney
Tom MacSweeney

About The Author

Tom MacSweeney

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Tom MacSweeney writes a weekly column for He also presents the maritime radio programme This Island Nation on community radio stations around Ireland.

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