A Naval Service diver who was involved in migrant rescue in the Mediterranean is one of seven recipients of Defence Forces value awards conferred by President Michael D Higgins on Wednesday evening writes Lorna Siggins
Able Mechanician Ryan O’Driscoll, originally from Rush, Co Dublin, and a Naval Service diver for the past three years, was also involved in the recovery operation after the loss of four Irish Coast Guard air crew in the Rescue 116 crash off north Mayo over two years ago.
The Defence Force value awards aim to celebrate outstanding service, and acknowledge the support and encouragement of the families of the recipients.
Also awarded were Corporal Caitriona Lacey, Gunner David Stack, Corporal David McCormack, Private Thomas Carew, Sergeant PJ McCabe and Regimental Sergeant Major John Murray.
Able Mechanician O’Driscoll served on the Naval Service ship LE Samuel Beckett in the Mediterranean during Ireland’s participation in Operation Pontus, a bilateral rescue initiative with Italy, and the now-suspended EUNAVFOR Med Operation Sophia.
As a diver, he participated in many missions in Irish waters and was directly involved in the recovery of the body of Irish Coast Guard co-pilot Capt Mark Duffy from the wreckage of the R116 helicopter off Blackrock island in north Mayo in March, 2017.
He was described in his citation as being a natural leader who has the respect of his peers.
Private Thomas Carew Private Thomas Carew, from Ferrybank in Waterford, was awarded for his “commendable selflessness” in saving the life of a civilian motorcyclist in a road accident in which he was propelled by the impact of the collision into an estuary in high tide.
Private Carew, from the Army’s 3rd Infantry Battalion, was nominated by a former superior.
Cpl David McCormack from Galway, was nominated by many of his comrades from the 1st Infantry Battalion for his response to an assault which left him with life-threatening injuries after he had returned from overseas service with the UN.
Cpl Catriona Lacey from Athlone, Co Westmeath, was nominated by fellow soldiers in 6th Infantry Battalion, having demonstrated moral courage after the loss of her brother, Thomas, to suicide in 2014.
Her father, Frank served 31 years in the Defence Forces brass band as a bugler and played at former president Eamon De Valera’s funeral. He is retired 20 years.
President Higgins said he was pleased to have been asked by Vice-Admiral Mark Mellett, head of the Defence Forces, to facilitate the event and “to celebrate the outstanding service given by seven deserving awardees”.
“ I am so pleased to have the opportunity of acknowledging in general, the support given by the families of so many members of our defence forces – a support that makes the contribution of their partners possible,” Mr Higgins said.
“You have all displayed a magnanimous resolve and steadfast commitment to uphold the central values of the Defence Forces, and your individual efforts and service to Ireland are being highlighted in this ceremony today,” Mr Higgins said.