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Interviewees for the Independent Review Group into sexual harassment, bullying and discrimination in the Defence Forces have reported that Naval Service vessels were among locations where sexual assaults took place.

Advice was given to female members of the Defence Forces to “maintain two locks on their cabin or bedroom doors if there has been an attempt to assault or forcibly enter their sleeping quarters in the past”, the review says.

“ Interviewees reported barricading of quarters to prevent sexual assault,” the Independent Review Group report into the Defence Forces (IRG-DF) says.

Tánaiste Micheál Martin, who has announced a statutory inquiry into how complaints were handled, has said he is “shocked” and “disgusted” by the findings of the report.

The review group was established after serious allegations were made about the Defence Forces by members of the Women of Honour (WoH) group.

Tánaiste Micheál Martin, who has announced a statutory inquiry into how complaints were handled, has said he is “shocked” and “disgusted” by the findings of the report.Tánaiste Micheál Martin, who has announced a statutory inquiry into how complaints were handled, has said he is “shocked” and “disgusted” by the findings of the Independent Review of the Defence Forces

The WoH group comprises female Defence Forces members who acted as whistleblowers over bullying and sexual harassment in their military lives, as highlighted in an RTÉ Radio documentary by Katie Hannon in 2021.

The group has welcomed the decision to establish a statutory inquiry.

In the review, 88% of female respondents surveyed said they had experienced one or more forms of sexual harassment, and reported sexual assaults took place “in barracks, naval boats, swimming areas, shower facilities and while abroad on tours”.

They also reported regular spiking of drinks, grooming of younger recruits, and intimate images being surreptitiously taken.

Interviewees described experiences including "tubbing",when an individual was put in a barrel which may contain items such as chemicals, oil, fuel or animal carcasses as a form of punishment.

“Beasting" and "mobbing" where an individual is harassed and isolated to ultimately "make life so difficult that they resign their post" were also described by interviewees.

"Different sources available to the IRG-DF conclude that, at best, the Defence Forces barely tolerates women and, at its worst, verbally, physically, sexually and psychologically abuses women in its ranks,”the review found.

It found that some members of Defence Forces' management "abuse their positions of power and command" in their treatment of subordinates.

Martin said the statutory inquiry into the report's findings should be established before the end of the year.

Defence Forces Chief of Staff Lieut-Gen Seán Clancy described the review findings as “stark” and said the military needs “to change”.

He said the Defence Forces "accept the findings" of the review, and would work with the Tánaiste and the Department of Defence to "fulfil all of the approved recommendations".

The Government has agreed to implement a number of measures and reforms to address the issues identified in the report, and an external oversight body will be established to ensure implementation of the recommendations.

The full report is here

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A German-registered Spanish fishing vessel is being escorted into West Cork by the Naval Service after it was detained off the southwest coast earlier this week.

The vessel is the fourth detention to have been recorded by the Naval Service this year.

The Naval Service ship LÉ Samuel Beckett inspected the fishing vessel during routine patrols and detained it on February 7th.

It is expected to reach port at the weekend, where it will be handed over to the Garda Siochána.

Last month, a separate German-registered Spanish vessel was detained by the LÉ George Bernard Shaw.

At a court sitting, the skipper of the Pesorsa Dos was charged with 12 offences relating to alleged illegal fishing activities in Irish waters on various dates in January this year.

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The Department of Defence is seeking tenders to recycle decommissioned Naval Service Vessels.

Three were decommissioned at the same time last Summer - LÉ Eithne and two coastal patrol vessels LÉ Orla and LÉ Ciara.

This was described at the time as “an unprecedented move”, and there has been speculation about what would be done with them. There were reports of interest from the Philippines Government and a possible buyer in the Netherlands.

However, the last Naval ship auctioned off, LÉ Aisling, eventually ended in the ownership of Libyan warlord General Khalifa Haftar. That caused controversy because the auction achieved €110,000 for the State. A Dutch company and another in the UAE were later reportedly involved. Reports claimed that Haftar purchased it for a reputed €1.3m.

LÉ Eithne was the last Naval Service ship built in the Verlome Dockyard at Rushbrooke in Cork Harbour, close to the Naval Base. She went into service in 1984 and was the first Irish Naval vessel to cross the Atlantic in 1986.

Cork County Council was reported to be interested in acquiring Eithne as a floating museum in the harbour, but more recently, it has been reported that the Department of Defence was in discussion with Dublin Port about the vessel going there.

On the Government e-Tenders website, the Department of Defence is now seeking tenders “for the provision of Ship Recycling Consultancy Services to support the recycling of decommissioned Naval Service Vessels by safe and environmentally sound recycling methods via an EU-approved ship-recycling facility by the EU’s Ship Recycling Regulation.”

While the EU’s Ship Recycling Regulation does not apply to warships, the Department says its intention is “to follow the Regulations in the recycling process.” It estimates that the expenditure on the Services to be covered by the proposed Services Contract “may amount to €130,000, excluding VAT. Tenderers must understand that this figure is an estimate only based on current and future expected usage.”

The closing date for tenders is noon on Monday, February 13.

It appears that, for the decommissioned, laid-up vessels, the Department of Defence is now looking at demolition and recycling, which would prevent Irish Naval ships from going to warlords!

 

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A German-registered Spanish vessel which was involved in a confrontation off the Scottish coast over two years ago has been detained by the Naval Service off the southwest coast.

The 26m Pesorsa Dos was detained last Saturday (January 21) by the LE George Bernard Shaw, but it took several days to haul its gear before it could be escorted into Castletownbere, Co Cork yesterday (Thurs Jan 26).

It is also understood that the fishing vessel’s boarding ladder broke when the Naval Service patrol crew was trying to gain access to the vessel.

The same vessel from La Coruna in northern Spain was previously detained in the Irish exclusive economic zone, 250 miles north of Donegal’s Malin Head, in July 2020.

The LE George Bernard ShawThe LE George Bernard Shaw

A Naval Service spokeswoman confirmed that a German-registered vessel was being escorted to port but could not confirm where the detention occurred, beyond stating it was “within the Irish exclusive economic zone”.

The spokeswoman could not give details on the nature of the alleged infringements.

In June 2020, the Spanish-owned vessel was accused of attempting to foul the propellor of Shetland-owned demersal trawler, Alison Kay, some 30 miles west of the Shetland Islands, by towing a heavy warp across its track.

The British authorities said they could not investigate the incident as it was outside the 12 nautical mile limit. It occurred just a month before its detention in Irish waters.

Navy staff shortages

Recruitment and staffing shortages mean that the Naval Service will only have four operational patrol vessels from next week, the Department of Defence has confirmed.

It has confirmed that two patrol ships, LÉ Roisín and LÉ Niamh, are being put into “operational reserve”, and the fleet will be down to four ships from February 1st.

“The decision to place the LÉ Roisín and LÉ Niamh into operational reserve is aimed at stabilising operational delivery and assisting in Naval Service regeneration which entails the prioritisation of personnel training and development of existing Naval Service personnel,” the department said.

“The Naval Service is satisfied that, notwithstanding the withdrawal from operational duties of the LÉ Roisin, they will be able to fulfil their current maritime security and defence commitments, including commitments provided for under the current service level agreement with the Sea Fisheries Protection Agency,” the department said.

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The Naval Service recorded three detentions during 350 fisheries-related inspection boardings last year in the Irish exclusive economic zone.

A review of 2022 released by the Defence Forces press office said that fishing vessels from Ireland, Britain, France, Spain, Netherlands, Norway, Russia, and Belgium were boarded and inspected in 2022.

Working with the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority, the Naval Service patrols 220 million maritime acres of sea (over twelve times the land mass of Ireland), representing 15% of Europe’s fisheries, the press office said.

The Naval Service Dive Section was deployed on four occasions last year, with operations including search and rescue and recovery of missing persons, it said.

There were five separate search and rescue responses from the Naval Service in 2022, while the joint task force on drugs was also “operational”. The task force involves the Naval Service, Air Corps, Revenue Commissioners and Garda Siochána.

Naval Service ships and crew were also involved in ten foreign visits last year to Britain, Portugal, Spain, the Netherlands, the US and Canada.

The Air Corps responded to more than 415 emergency aeromedical services (EAS) missions last year.

Its Athlone helicopter base supports the National Ambulance Service (NAS) in providing a medical service for seriously ill patients. Its air crew also carried out 49 inter-hospital air ambulance tasks both nationally and internationally to Britain and Europe.

Over 450 hours of maritime surveillance patrol flights were recorded by the Air Corps.

Its aircraft responded to several requests to provide aerial fire-fighting in Mayo, Wicklow and Dublin to protect property in an “aid to civil power” role.

It also continued to support Garda Air Support Unit operations and provided flights “as required to the Garda to repatriate people who had been the subject of “EU removal and exclusion orders”,the press office said.

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A local Government TD says he’s “confident” that Galway will be chosen to host a new naval base for an expanded Irish Navy.

Speaking to Galway Talks yesterday, Defence Minister Simon Coveney confirmed a new base will be sited along the west coast as part of plans to radically increase spending.

He said while Galway is in the running, it could be located anywhere between Galway and Donegal.

But Fine Gael Deputy Ciaran Cannon believes Galway is the most logical choice.

Meanwhile, a Dun Laoghaire TD has repeated her call this week for the 'underutilised' Dun Laoghaire Harbour on Dublin Bay to be a base for the Navy in the capital's waters.

Published in Galway Harbour
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Irish Naval Service vessel LÉ Róisín (pictured above) will be docked in Britannia Quay, Cardiff Bay from 18th-20th July with members of the public able to come on board.

The ship, constructed at Appledore Shipyards in Devon, and crew are usually patrolling the high seas.

However, they will be docked in Cardiff Bay to host a range of events in collaboration with the Consulate General of Ireland. The visit will celebrate the strong Ireland - Wales relationship and in particular the recent establishment of the Irish Consulate.

LÉ Róisín will be based at Britannia Quay, Cardiff Bay, CF10 4PJ, a short walk from the Millennium Centre and Senedd Cymru/Welsh Parliament.

Members of the public are welcome to come onto the deck and receive tours of the ship.

The ship will be open for free public viewings from:

  • 14:00-17:00 - Monday 18th July
  • 10:00-12:00 - Tuesday 19th July
  • 14:00-17:00 - Tuesday 19th July

There will also be a crew member on the ground who will be able to talk about life on the ship with any visitors with mobility or accessibility requirements.

This is a rare opportunity to visit an Irish navy vessel, meet the crew, and learn about the Irish Defence Forces and their experiences of seafaring.

Commenting on the Irish Navy’s visit, Consul General of Ireland, Denise Hanrahan said:

“I am delighted that Cardiff Bay will be home to the Irish navy’s LÉ Róisín from the 18th to 20th of July.

We look forward to welcoming many visitors on board in celebration of the close connections between Wales and Ireland, and to express our appreciation for all the support we have had in establishing Ireland’s diplomatic presence in Wales.

Our maritime heritage and the Irish Sea are central to the diverse and vibrant cultural, economic and community relationships between Ireland and Wales.”

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Our Shared Ocean, a collaboration between Irish Aid-Department of Foreign Affairs and the Marine Institute, was launched in Lisbon yesterday by Irish Ambassador to Portugal, Ralph Victory, on board the Irish Naval Service Vessel, L.E. George Bernard Shaw, during the 2022 UN Ocean Conference.

Our Shared Ocean will provide €3.8 million over the next five years to facilitate partnerships on ocean-related issues between research institutions in Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and their counterparts in Ireland.

Speaking at the launch, Dr Niall McDonough, Director of Policy, Innovation and Research Services at the Marine Institute, said, "we are proud to launch the Our Shared Ocean programme on the occasion of the UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon. This flagship programme will support the development of new knowledge and new partnerships between researchers in Small Island Developing States and Ireland. As island nations, Our Shared Ocean can help us work better together to address the common challenges presented by climate change and to find solutions to sustainably benefit from the enormous potential of our ocean and its resources."

Our Shared Ocean aims to:

  • Build the Irish capability and knowledge base in support of the UN Sustainable Development Goals related to sustainable ocean management as set out in Global Ireland and the SIDS Strategy;
  • Support capacity building in eligible SIDS partner countries and in Ireland in Oceans and Climate Action, Inclusive and sustainable blue economy and Marine Policy and ocean governance.
  • Establish and grow research partnerships between Irish institutions and international counterparts, providing research and technical support to assist eligible SIDS in addressing specific ocean and climate related challenges and opportunities.

The Marine Institute have developed a suite of research funding instruments in order to achieve these objectives, via Mobility and Travel Grants; Fellowships and Research Projects; and direct contribution to international programmes supporting ocean capacity building in eligible SIDS, with the first calls being launched this month. The programme is a key element of Ireland's contribution to the Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development.

The launch of Our Shared Ocean in Lisbon also provided the opportunity to celebrate 80 years of relations between Ireland and Portugal. It recognised the strong marine links between the two countries, including through the recently signed Memorandum of Understanding between the Marine Institute and the Instituto do Mar e da Atmosfera.

As Afloat reported earlier, The Fair Seas campaign has welcomed Ireland’s contribution of almost 10 million euro to address ocean challenges faced by developing countries, including small island developing states. The funding was confirmed earlier this week by Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney on the eve of the UN Ocean Conference.

Published in Marine Science
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Castletownbere RNLI was launched last night (Wednesday 09 March 2022) just after 22:00 to go to the assistance of a crewman onboard the Irish Navy vessel L.E. George Bernard Shaw who had become injured during sea exercises off the coast of West Cork.

Castletownbere lifeboat volunteer crew were requested to launch by Valentia Coastguard Marine Coordination Centre to provide assistance to the man who was on board the naval vessel which was at anchor at Lawrence Cove off Bere Island in West Cork. The lifeboat was launched within minutes under the command of Coxswain Dean Hegarty with crew David O’Donovan, Martin Cronin, Dave Fenton, Seamus Harrington, Marc O’Hare and Donagh Murphy.

At 22:23 the lifeboat arrived on the scene and the conditions were described as very calm. The crewman was transferred by stretcher from the naval vessel to the lifeboat where he subsequently received casualty care. On arrival at Castletownbere RNLI Station at 22:56, the injured man was met by paramedics from the National Ambulance Service and he subsequently received medical assessment and attention.

Commenting on the callout Castletownbere RNLI Lifeboat Operations Manager, Paul Stevens, stated: ‘Thankfully, this was a very straightforward call out and everything went very smoothly – we wish the injured crewman a full and speedy recovery’.

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An exhibition about the Naval Service has opened at the Passage West Maritime Museum, recounting how the Cork Harbour village has been a strong provider of Navy personnel.

Intriguingly, it includes a detailed account of 21 years’ service by local man Jim McIntyre, who enlisted at the age of 15 in October 1956. Recalling the days of corvettes and minesweepers, bought from the Royal Navy, he recounts that “crews were scarce in those days.”

Naval Exhibition at Passage West MuseumNaval Exhibition at Passage West Museum

That challenge faces the Naval Service again today, pointed out at the opening of the exhibition which follows the Commission on the Defence Forces Review that highlighted the need to increase personnel and ships.

Jim Mcintyre in the Engine Room of L.E.Maev in 1964Jim Mcintyre in the Engine Room of L.E.Maev in 1964

The Flag Officer Commanding the Naval Service, Michael Malone, accepts that this is a challenging time for the Service. “But we have seen peaks and troughs over the years. People are slow to engage in joining the defence forces, but we will turn that corner. We will get the personnel we need. Seagoing is something you have to be dedicated to. We will get the personnel we need,” he told me in an interview at the Naval Base.

Podcast below

Published in Tom MacSweeney
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Marine Wildlife Around Ireland One of the greatest memories of any day spent boating around the Irish coast is an encounter with marine wildlife.  It's a thrill for young and old to witness seabirds, seals, dolphins and whales right there in their own habitat. As boaters fortunate enough to have experienced it will testify even spotting a distant dorsal fin can be the highlight of any day afloat.  Was that a porpoise? Was it a whale? No matter how brief the glimpse it's a privilege to share the seas with Irish marine wildlife.

Thanks to the location of our beautiful little island, perched in the North Atlantic Ocean there appears to be no shortage of marine life to observe.

From whales to dolphins, seals, sharks and other ocean animals this page documents the most interesting accounts of marine wildlife around our shores. We're keen to receive your observations, your photos, links and youtube clips.

Boaters have a unique perspective and all those who go afloat, from inshore kayaking to offshore yacht racing that what they encounter can be of real value to specialist organisations such as the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) who compile a list of sightings and strandings. The IWDG knowledge base has increased over the past 21 years thanks in part at least to the observations of sailors, anglers, kayakers and boaters.

Thanks to the IWDG work we now know we share the seas with dozens of species who also call Ireland home. Here's the current list: Atlantic white-sided dolphin, beluga whale, blue whale, bottlenose dolphin, common dolphin, Cuvier's beaked whale, false killer whale, fin whale, Gervais' beaked whale, harbour porpoise, humpback whale, killer whale, minke whale, northern bottlenose whale, northern right whale, pilot whale, pygmy sperm whale, Risso's dolphin, sei whale, Sowerby's beaked whale, sperm whale, striped dolphin, True's beaked whale and white-beaked dolphin.

But as impressive as the species list is the IWDG believe there are still gaps in our knowledge. Next time you are out on the ocean waves keep a sharp look out!