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Community of Erris & Irish Coast Guard Honoured at People of the Year Awards

16th April 2018
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Keith Swanick (left) and John Gallagher, representing the Erris Community, pictured with Chris Reynolds, Director, Irish Coast Guard, after they received a People of the Year Award at the 43rd Rehab People of the Year Awards, in St Stephen’s Green, Dublin. The winners, who are nominated by members of the public, were revealed live on RTÉ One television at a star-studded black-tie ceremony hosted by Gráinne Seoige and Aidan Power, from Dublin’s Mansion House. Ireland’s longest-running and most prestigious awards event, the Awards recognise people for their heroic deeds and remarkable achievements Keith Swanick (left) and John Gallagher, representing the Erris Community, pictured with Chris Reynolds, Director, Irish Coast Guard, after they received a People of the Year Award at the 43rd Rehab People of the Year Awards, in St Stephen’s Green, Dublin. The winners, who are nominated by members of the public, were revealed live on RTÉ One television at a star-studded black-tie ceremony hosted by Gráinne Seoige and Aidan Power, from Dublin’s Mansion House. Ireland’s longest-running and most prestigious awards event, the Awards recognise people for their heroic deeds and remarkable achievements Photo: Robbie Reynolds

The community of Erris and Irish Coast Guard have been jointly honoured at the People of the Year Awards, with special recognition for the crew of Rescue 116 which was lost off the Mayo coast in March of last year.

The honour at the 43rd People of the Year Awards, organised by Rehab, was presented by broadcaster Bryan Dobson in recognition of the heroic work of the men and women of the Irish Coast Guard in risking life to assist maritime and coastal communities, while the people of Erris were recognised for their contribution to the search for the missing crew. The Awards were broadcast live on RTÉ One from Dublin’s Mansion House on Sunday.

Volunteer member Caitríona Lucas, who lost her life off the Clare coast during a separate operation, was also honoured.

It was early on the morning of March 14, 2017, that Coast Guard helicopter Rescue 116 disappeared off the north coast of Mayo. The aircraft had been providing communications support for an offshore medical assistance operation. On board were Capt Dara Fitzpatrick, Capt Mark Duffy and winch team Paul Ormsby and Ciarán Smith.

Hundreds of volunteers, fishermen, and colleagues supported the emergency services in combing the area for the missing crew, going above and beyond in a bid to recover the lost heroes.

The bodies of Dara Fitzpatrick and Mark Duffy were recovered in the subsequent searches. However, tragically and despite intensive efforts, the bodies of Ciarán Smith and Paul Ormsby have yet to be recovered.

Just six months previously, the Irish Coast Guard community had suffered another devastating loss with the passing of their brave colleague, volunteer member Caitríona Lucas, who had been participating in a search operation off the coast of Kilkee, Co. Clare.

Irish Coast Guard Search and Rescue Operations Manager, Gerard O’Flynn, said: “The selfless actions of those who put their lives on the line, for the safety of others, means Caitríona, Dara, Ciáran, Mark and Paul will remain an inspiration to us all. Going above and beyond is the norm for members of the Coast Guard service. The fact that these men and women often put their own lives in danger to carry out their duties makes the search and rescue crews such a remarkable group of people. Our colleagues will always be sadly missed and we remain deeply saddened by the depth of this tragedy.

“I would like to pay tribute to the community of Erris who left no stone unturned in supporting one of the most extensive search and investigation operations ever conducted in the area. Every possible assistance was provided, ranging from the fishing community providing local knowledge and advice, shoreline searching and, in particular, the huge catering operation that was put in place to provide valuable sustenance to all participants. It was indicative of the long-established bond between coastal communities and the Coast Guard services. We are humbled to receive this award which honours the bravery of all of our colleagues and pray that their bereaved families will take courage from this recognition.”

Ireland’s longest-running and most prestigious awards event, the People of the Year Awards are widely recognised as one of Ireland’s highest accolades. Nominated by members of the public, and finalised by a panel of adjudicators, a total of ten awards were presented at the ceremony which was hosted by Gráinne Seoige and Aidan Power.

Published in Coastguard
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