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Displaying items by tag: Donegal

16th October 2015

The Sea Stacks of Donegal

The county of Donegal at the North West tip of Ireland boasts two major Irish mountain ranges, over thousand kilometres of coastline, one hundred sea stacks and many diverse climbing locations writes Ian Miller. Donegal currently plays host to many lifetimes worth of world class rock climbing in some of the most beautiful and unspoilt Locations in Ireland. The scope for further exploration and the opportunity to discover unclimbed rock is almost unlimited, as there is an unexplored adventure waiting through every mountain pass and around every remote headland. There is a wealth different types of climbing venues found throughout Donegal from easy accessible road side venues though to huge mountain cliffs found high in the remote Donegal mountains.
What the coast line of Donegal provides for an adventurous rock climber is more rock climbing venues, routes and unclimbed rock than the rest of Ireland combined. The wealth and diversity of the climbing available along this coast line is almost unlimited from the mud stone roof at Muckross in the south of the county to the Granite slabs at Malin head, (Irelands most northerly point) in the North of the county. County Donegal boasts Irelands longest rock climb, the 750 meter long Sturrall Ridge, Irelands highest sea stack, the 150m Tormore Island and Irelands highest mountain crag in the Poison Glen. There are currently over 2800 recorded rock climbs on over 150 cliff faces scattered throughout the county. 
Where the rock climbing on Donegal’s coast line truly excels itself is in its sea stacks. There are a shade under 100 sea stacks with currently just over 150 recorded routes to their summits. The sea stacks are found along the coast of Donegal’s mainland and its western islands sit in some of the most remote, isolated and hostile coastal locations in Ireland. What these sea stacks provide is a large collection of the most adventurous, remote and atmospheric rock climbs in Ireland. 
Sea stack climbing involves accessing huge towers of rock that stick out of the sea, it is this access that makes these locations so special. A day out on a sea stack will typically require a 250 meter descent to sea level to access an isolated storm beach, where it is highly unlikely anyone has ever stood before. This is followed by an UBER committing sea passage along the bases of currently unclimbed 250 meter high sea cliffs in a totally committed and potentially unescapable locations, this will allow you to gain the bases of the sea stacks. The commitment required and the sense of primal fear that accompanies these marine journeys has to experienced to be understood.
. As always, tad of logistics and planning is the key to success and of course the adoption of perhaps less orthodox climbing equipment such as 600m of 6mm polypro, a lightweight Lidl Dingy, a single lightweight paddle, divers booties, a 20ft Cordette, a pair of Speedo’s, heavy duty dry bags, 20m of 12mm polyprop, an alpine hammer, a snow bar, a selection of pegs, a chest harness/inverted Gri-Gri combo and a big Grin! We then climb these towers of rock to arrive on pristine pinpoint summits far from anywhere in the real world. Standing on a pinpoint summit over 100m above the ocean, 500m from the nearest point of land and 20KM from the nearest main road can easily be described as a truly spiritual experience.

Donegal Sea Stacks

Since 2007 I have been exploring the sea stacks of County Donegal, and have currently climbed over 60 previously unclimbed sea stacks along the coast of the county and recorded over 150 new routes on Donegal's Sea Stacks. During these adventures we have seen and experienced firsthand the true beauty of these little known places in coastal Ireland.
donegal sea stacks map

The main residence of the sea stacks is the Slievetooey coastline in the South West of the county, access to this coastline is by a narrow winding 20 km B road which takes you to the An Port road end.

An Staca sea stack

An Port is quite simply the most beautiful location in Ireland a trip to this road end is an outstanding journey in its own right, but it’s what lives either side of this road end that makes it a mind blowing location.
donegal sea stacksTo the south of An Port lives a chain four sea stacks each with an increase in commitment and concern to reach their bases as they span further and further away from the remote storm beach launch pad facing Berg Stack. (link 4) To the South of these stacks the skyline is dominated by the Sturrall Headland, which provides an 750 meter rock climb which requires a 300 meter sea passage to reach its most sea ward tip. The rock climbing grade of this headland is given the little used XS grade as it means there is much more than rock climbing skills required for a safe ascent. Approx a third of the way up the ridge there is a 50 meter long section of climbing that will live forever in your memory! 

An Port South

Travelling North from An Port the sea cliffs and sea stacks just get bigger and bigger. After about a 600 meter cliff top walk you will be overlooking the 90 meter high Toralaydan island. (Link 6) Living on its south and North sides are a further very difficult to access sea stacks. At the sea ward tip of its south side lives the Baltic Tower a route up its sea ward face provides a very scary climb called Icon, and at a very amenable climbing grade it provides a climb on immaculate rock in a terrifying nautical location.
donegal sea stacks 3
A further 500m to the North of Toralaydan Island lives An Bhuideal (The Bottle, as its north summit looks like a milk bottle when seen from the sea) an immaculate and iconic twin headed stack. There are currently three routes to its twin summits and all three are world class adventurous rock climbs. The super skinny North tower of this stack provides an unforgettable experience of three pitch climbing to its tiny and extremely exposed summit. The abseil descent from this micro summit involves a wee bit of prayer as the summit abseil anchors are a cairn of rocks and the landward face overhang alarmingly in its upper half. It is a very scary place to be! ☺
donegal sea stacks 4

donegal sea stacks 5 
Travelling a further kilometre North along the coast from An Bhuideal takes you to a stunning cliff top viewpoint over looking Tormore Island, Irelands highest sea stack. Living in the shadow of Tormore Island is the 100 meter high Cnoc na Mara, it is difficult not to get emotional when talking about the mighty Cnoc na Mara.

Cnoc na mara Solo

Cnoc na Mara

When I first saw this 100m sea stack from the overlooking cliff tops it was the inspiration to climb every unclimbed sea stack in Donegal. It is safe to say this stack represents all that is great about adventure climbing. It's impressive soaring 150 meter long landward arete provides one of the most rewarding and adventurous rock climbs in Ireland. It is easily an equal to the mighty Old Man of Hoy off the Orkney Islands in the north of Scotland. Access is by a monsterous steep grassy descent followed by a 20 meter abseil to a storm beach at the entrance to Shambhala. As you descent this steep slope, sitting out to sea Cnoc na Mara grows with height as you descend reaching epic proportions as you get closer to the beach. Gaining the beach alone is an adventurous undertaking in its own right and is an excellent taster off what is to come. From the beach you paddle out for about 120 meter to the reach the base of the stack. The Landward arête of the stack is climbed in four pitches each pitch being much more atmospheric than the previous. The fourth pitch being the money shot as it is a 58 meter ridge traverse with 100 meters of air either side of you as you negotiate the short steep sections along this outstanding ridge traverse. 
Gaining the summit is like being reborn into a world where anything is possible, it truly is a surreal and magical place to be. The whole world falls away below and around you, as you are perched on a summit far from anything else in the real world.

Paddle around Tormore Island

Tormore Island is a gigantic leviathan, a sentinel of the deep standing guard at the nautical gates of the Slievetooey coastline. At 150 meters above sea level at its highest point above the ocean it is Ireland's highest sea stack. This huge square topped sea stack can be seen for many kilometres along the coast either side of it. It can even be clearly seen from the Dungloe/Kincaslough road some 40 Kilometres to the north. Access is a very involved and emotional affair and entails gaining the storm beach as for Cnoc na Mara, Lurking Fear and Tormore Island. From here it is a 500 meter long sea passage around the headland to the north of the storm beach and a further 250 meter paddle through the outstanding channel separating Tormore Island and Cobblers Tower on the Donegal mainland. At the northern end of the land ward face of Tormore Island there is a huge non tidal ledge just above the high water mark.
In 2008 a team of four climbers travelled by 250 horse power RiB and landed on the land ward face of the stack. Two members of the party had made several previous attempts to land on and climb the stack in the past. We were aware of the story of the man who was buried here. During our climb of the stack we searched any possible place where someone could be buried and found no possible burial site or any trace of the passage of people on the stack prior to our ascent. We found no evidence or trace of previous visitors on the summit. To get off the summit back to sea level we made four 50 meter abseils leaving behind two 240 cm slings and 5 pitons as abseil anchors.
We climbed the very obvious land ward arete at the northern end of the land ward face of the sea stack, This huge feature can be easily seen from any position along the coast overlooking the stack. The route we took to the summit was climbed in 5 long pitches following the easiest climbing we could find up this huge feature.

donegal sea stacks 6
To the North of the Tormore Island view point, the coastline falls away into Glenlough bay, a truly spectacular bay containing a further 4 sea stacks and Irelands largest raised shingle storm beach. On a day of huge north west sea motion the roar of a billions of tonnes of shingle being moved up and down the beach by the incoming seas can be deafening even from the cliff tops 200 meters above the beach.
To the north of Glenlough bay the land swings 90 degrees to face north and for a distance of 7 kilometres the sea cliffs increase to 300 meters high. At the base of these monster sea cliffs are a further four extremely inaccessible sea stacks, the 60 meters high Unforgiven Stack, the 50 meter high Pyramid Stack, the 80 meter high Satan and the 90 meter high Gull Island. Of these sea stacks Satan is the daddy, This sea stack is one of the most fearsome and dangerous stacks in Ireland. It sits off the north west face of the mighty Gull Island and presents considerable logistical and nautical access problems requiring a tad of nautical planning prior to attempting an ascent. 


The most remote place in Ireland?

Access is by walking 4KM over the Slievetooey summit from the south and descending it's northern slopes to an outstanding location on the clifftops over looking Gull Island. Descend the very steep grass to the boulder beach joining Gull Island to the mainland. There is an abseil stake in place (2009) to safeguard the initial part of the descent. Once on the boulder beach paddle 500 or so meters west along the base of Gull Island to the entrance of a surreal gothic channel separating Satan and Gull Island. This channel is outrageous and leads you to the only landing place on the stack. Land on the stack at the convergance of the channels in the centre of this gothic labyrinth.
The stack was climbed in three pitches up it's south face culminating in a superb final pitch up a steep groove and rocky ridge traverse onto the majestic and super scary summit. The stack is so named as, if you make a mess of it the beast will take your soul. 


Solo First Ascent


The Icon


Owey Island


Centre Stack

For more information click here to down load Iain Millers' free guidebook 

Published in Coastal Notes
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#MarineWildlife - Whale Watch West Cork have shared this incredible video of one of a humpback whale breaching off Baltimore this week.

The whale is one of three of the ocean giants seen feeding off Baltimore and nearby islands in recent days, and caught in some stunning shots by photographer Simon Duggan, among others.


Meanwhile, some no less impressive sights have been seen of Donegal, new video shows basking sharks - the second biggest fish in the sea - breaching off Malin Head.


Bren Whelan of Wild Atlantic Way Climbing told Independent Travel that it's been an "outstanding week" for marine wildlife watching on the North Coast, saying he himself had witnessed "over 300" basking shark breaches.

Basking sharks have been seen in big numbers the area all month long, with 15 spotted during the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group's Whale Watch Ireland 2015 event on the afternoon of 23 August alone.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#Surfing - A new surfing exchange programme for young people is promoting cultural relations between the UK and Ireland.

As the Cornish Guardian reports, up to 15 local teenagers will be selected to take part in the Wave Project exchange with Co Donegal, which has the aim of boosting confidence and reducing anxiety through surfing.

The first exchange takes place over next month's half-term holidays in the UK, when 13 Irish youth will stay in Newquay.

They will return the favour next spring over the Easter break when the Cornish teens will stay at a purpose-built facility on the Donegal coast.

The Cornish Guardian has more on the story HERE.

Published in Surfing

#Fishing - Donegal fishermen are counting their lucky stars after a near-miss with a submarine last week.

As reports, Seán Ó Briain says his crab boat came within just 200 metres of the sub, which appeared with little warning about 22km northwest of Tory Island last Thursday (3 September).

While the "general rule", according to Ó Briain, is to give right of way to fishing vessels such as his when setting or pulling pots, in this case "we needed to slow down to let the submarine pass".

Ó Briain added that daylight added to their luck both this time and in a similar incident this time last year, as they were able to take evasive action.

The story will bring to mind an Ardglass skipper's complaint that his prawn trawler was dragged backwards by a submarine in the Irish Sea this past April – an incident finally confirmed by the Royal Navy on Monday (7 September).

According to the Belfast Telegraph, Britain's Ministry of Defence admitted to the incident, which caused an estimated £10,000 worth of damage to Paul Murphy's boa and fishing gear, after "new information" came to light. More on the story HERE.

Published in Fishing
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#MarineWildlife - Locals near Magheraroarty Beach in Co Donegal were left with a smelly situation last week after the remains of a whale buried on the strand were washed back onto the surface in a matter of days.

According to The Irish Times, the sperm whale carcass was first found beached on Friday 19 June and buried under the sand where it was found by Donegal County Council over that weekend.

However, on Monday 22 June the cetacean carcass reappeared after it was washed back out from its burial place with the tide.

And in its more advanced decomposing state, the noxious odour was beginning to cause a stink among regular beach users and locals alike. The Irish Times has more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#Overboard - Breaking News reports that a man has died after falling overboard from a fishing vessel off Donegal this afternoon (Tuesday 16 June).

The deceased had been working on a lobster boat with a colleague off Horn Head when the incident occurred.

First on scene in the search and rescue operation was the Mulroy unit of the Irish Coast Guard, who recovered him from the water

He was then transferred to the Rescue 118 helicopter for airlift to Letterkenny General but was pronounced dead after arrival.

Published in News Update
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#Fishing - The Irish Times reports that a post-mortem will be conducted on the remains of a Spanish fisherman found off the Donegal coast early yesterday (Monday 1 June).

According to The Nationalist, the man was believed to have gone overboard from the Spanish fishing trawler on which he was working on Sunday night.

The body of the 56-year-old was recovered from Killybegs Harbour around lunchtime yesterday after a widespread search by local lifeboats and coastguard, and removed to Letterkenny General Hospital.

Published in Fishing
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#RNLI - Arranmore RNLI saved two fishermen on Wednesday afternoon (8 April) after their 10m boat capsized off the Donegal coast.

A member of the public who was watching the fishing vessel from the shoreline raised the alarm at 2.50pm after he saw the boat capsize two miles south of Arranmore.

Arranmore RNLI’s boarding boat, which was already at sea with coxswain Anton Kavanagh and mechanic Philip McCauley on board, made its way to the scene.

Weather conditions at the time were described as blowing a gentle Force 2 to 3 wind but there was a heavy ground swell of three to four metres.

During their short passage, the volunteer lifeboat crew spotted and followed a track of fuel, and once on scene observed the wreckage of the stricken vessel. They then observed the two fishermen in the water approximately 300 yards from where the boat had capsized.

Both men were very cold when they were pulled from the sea and brought onboard Arranmore RNLI’s boat.

They were brought to Aphort Harbour, where they were made comfortable before being airlifted by the Irish Coast Guard’s Rescue 118 helicopter from Sligo and transferred to Letterkenny General Hospital.

Speaking following the callout, Anton Kavanagh said: "Both men are very lucky to be alive today and full credit must go to the member of the public who saw the boat capsize and raised the alarm, because the fishermen were not due back to shore for a couple of hours.

"We were delighted to be able to help and are glad that both men are safe and well."

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

#Diving - The loss of a late diver's 'black box' means we will never know exactly what happened in the drowning incident off Donegal in July last year, according to the Belfast Telegraph.

As previously reported on, hospital chaplain Rev Stewart Jones (56) died after getting into difficulty while diving off St John's Point near Killybegs.

At the inquest into his death at Sligo Court House on Monday 2 March, coroner Eamon MacGowan recorded a verdict of accidental death by drowning.

In a statement read to the court, Rev Jones' diving partner Aaron Buick explained how they had waited out poor conditions before setting out on their dive, but within 15 minutes - having dived to 23 metres - the reverend signalled to return to the surface.

Buick described the "sickening" wave action on the water as he assisted Rev Jones with his back-up air cylinder, and noted his distress when they reached the surface shortly after.

"I had to stop every 15 to 20 seconds as he was spitting out his regulator and swallowing water as the waves broke over us," his statement read.

Diving expert Rory Golden, who was called as an expert witness, said Rev Jones' dive equipment was found to be in good working order, but his dive computer – which records information such as available oxygen and air pressure – was never recovered.

The Belfast Telegraph has more on the story HERE.

Published in Diving

#Seafood - Donegal's oyster industry has been hit by an import ban in Hong Kong over an outbreak of food poisoning.

According to The Irish Times, food safety investigators in the Chinese territory were notified by Irish authorities two weeks ago that the presence of norovirus was confirmed at a raw oyster processing plant in the north-eastern county that services the crucial Asian market.

Hong Kong subsequently banned the import of raw oysters from Donegal "for the sake of prudence". More HERE.

Published in Fishing
Page 5 of 13

The Irish Coast Guard

The Irish Coast Guard is Ireland's fourth 'Blue Light' service (along with An Garda Síochána, the Ambulance Service and the Fire Service). It provides a nationwide maritime emergency organisation as well as a variety of services to shipping and other government agencies.

The purpose of the Irish Coast Guard is to promote safety and security standards, and by doing so, prevent as far as possible, the loss of life at sea, and on inland waters, mountains and caves, and to provide effective emergency response services and to safeguard the quality of the marine environment.

The Irish Coast Guard has responsibility for Ireland's system of marine communications, surveillance and emergency management in Ireland's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and certain inland waterways.

It is responsible for the response to, and co-ordination of, maritime accidents which require search and rescue and counter-pollution and ship casualty operations. It also has responsibility for vessel traffic monitoring.

Operations in respect of maritime security, illegal drug trafficking, illegal migration and fisheries enforcement are co-ordinated by other bodies within the Irish Government.

On average, each year, the Irish Coast Guard is expected to:

  • handle 3,000 marine emergencies
  • assist 4,500 people and save about 200 lives
  • task Coast Guard helicopters on missions

The Coast Guard has been around in some form in Ireland since 1908.

Coast Guard helicopters

The Irish Coast Guard has contracted five medium-lift Sikorsky Search and Rescue helicopters deployed at bases in Dublin, Waterford, Shannon and Sligo.

The helicopters are designated wheels up from initial notification in 15 minutes during daylight hours and 45 minutes at night. One aircraft is fitted and its crew trained for under slung cargo operations up to 3000kgs and is available on short notice based at Waterford.

These aircraft respond to emergencies at sea, inland waterways, offshore islands and mountains of Ireland (32 counties).

They can also be used for assistance in flooding, major inland emergencies, intra-hospital transfers, pollution, and aerial surveillance during daylight hours, lifting and passenger operations and other operations as authorised by the Coast Guard within appropriate regulations.

Irish Coastguard FAQs

The Irish Coast Guard provides nationwide maritime emergency response, while also promoting safety and security standards. It aims to prevent the loss of life at sea, on inland waters, on mountains and in caves; and to safeguard the quality of the marine environment.

The main role of the Irish Coast Guard is to rescue people from danger at sea or on land, to organise immediate medical transport and to assist boats and ships within the country's jurisdiction. It has three marine rescue centres in Dublin, Malin Head, Co Donegal, and Valentia Island, Co Kerry. The Dublin National Maritime Operations centre provides marine search and rescue responses and coordinates the response to marine casualty incidents with the Irish exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Yes, effectively, it is the fourth "blue light" service. The Marine Rescue Sub-Centre (MRSC) Valentia is the contact point for the coastal area between Ballycotton, Co Cork and Clifden, Co Galway. At the same time, the MRSC Malin Head covers the area between Clifden and Lough Foyle. Marine Rescue Co-ordination Centre (MRCC) Dublin covers Carlingford Lough, Co Louth to Ballycotton, Co Cork. Each MRCC/MRSC also broadcasts maritime safety information on VHF and MF radio, including navigational and gale warnings, shipping forecasts, local inshore forecasts, strong wind warnings and small craft warnings.

The Irish Coast Guard handles about 3,000 marine emergencies annually, and assists 4,500 people - saving an estimated 200 lives, according to the Department of Transport. In 2016, Irish Coast Guard helicopters completed 1,000 missions in a single year for the first time.

Yes, Irish Coast Guard helicopters evacuate medical patients from offshore islands to hospital on average about 100 times a year. In September 2017, the Department of Health announced that search and rescue pilots who work 24-hour duties would not be expected to perform any inter-hospital patient transfers. The Air Corps flies the Emergency Aeromedical Service, established in 2012 and using an AW139 twin-engine helicopter. Known by its call sign "Air Corps 112", it airlifted its 3,000th patient in autumn 2020.

The Irish Coast Guard works closely with the British Maritime and Coastguard Agency, which is responsible for the Northern Irish coast.

The Irish Coast Guard is a State-funded service, with both paid management personnel and volunteers, and is under the auspices of the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. It is allocated approximately 74 million euro annually in funding, some 85 per cent of which pays for a helicopter contract that costs 60 million euro annually. The overall funding figure is "variable", an Oireachtas committee was told in 2019. Other significant expenditure items include volunteer training exercises, equipment, maintenance, renewal, and information technology.

The Irish Coast Guard has four search and rescue helicopter bases at Dublin, Waterford, Shannon and Sligo, run on a contract worth 50 million euro annually with an additional 10 million euro in costs by CHC Ireland. It provides five medium-lift Sikorsky S-92 helicopters and trained crew. The 44 Irish Coast Guard coastal units with 1,000 volunteers are classed as onshore search units, with 23 of the 44 units having rigid inflatable boats (RIBs) and 17 units having cliff rescue capability. The Irish Coast Guard has 60 buildings in total around the coast, and units have search vehicles fitted with blue lights, all-terrain vehicles or quads, first aid equipment, generators and area lighting, search equipment, marine radios, pyrotechnics and appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) and Community Rescue Boats Ireland also provide lifeboats and crews to assist in search and rescue. The Irish Coast Guard works closely with the Garda Siochána, National Ambulance Service, Naval Service and Air Corps, Civil Defence, while fishing vessels, ships and other craft at sea offer assistance in search operations.

The helicopters are designated as airborne from initial notification in 15 minutes during daylight hours, and 45 minutes at night. The aircraft respond to emergencies at sea, on inland waterways, offshore islands and mountains and cover the 32 counties. They can also assist in flooding, major inland emergencies, intra-hospital transfers, pollution, and can transport offshore firefighters and ambulance teams. The Irish Coast Guard volunteers units are expected to achieve a 90 per cent response time of departing from the station house in ten minutes from notification during daylight and 20 minutes at night. They are also expected to achieve a 90 per cent response time to the scene of the incident in less than 60 minutes from notification by day and 75 minutes at night, subject to geographical limitations.

Units are managed by an officer-in-charge (three stripes on the uniform) and a deputy officer in charge (two stripes). Each team is trained in search skills, first aid, setting up helicopter landing sites and a range of maritime skills, while certain units are also trained in cliff rescue.

Volunteers receive an allowance for time spent on exercises and call-outs. What is the difference between the Irish Coast Guard and the RNLI? The RNLI is a registered charity which has been saving lives at sea since 1824, and runs a 24/7 volunteer lifeboat service around the British and Irish coasts. It is a declared asset of the British Maritime and Coast Guard Agency and the Irish Coast Guard. Community Rescue Boats Ireland is a community rescue network of volunteers under the auspices of Water Safety Ireland.

No, it does not charge for rescue and nor do the RNLI or Community Rescue Boats Ireland.

The marine rescue centres maintain 19 VHF voice and DSC radio sites around the Irish coastline and a digital paging system. There are two VHF repeater test sites, four MF radio sites and two NAVTEX transmitter sites. Does Ireland have a national search and rescue plan? The first national search and rescue plan was published in July, 2019. It establishes the national framework for the overall development, deployment and improvement of search and rescue services within the Irish Search and Rescue Region and to meet domestic and international commitments. The purpose of the national search and rescue plan is to promote a planned and nationally coordinated search and rescue response to persons in distress at sea, in the air or on land.

Yes, the Irish Coast Guard is responsible for responding to spills of oil and other hazardous substances with the Irish pollution responsibility zone, along with providing an effective response to marine casualties and monitoring or intervening in marine salvage operations. It provides and maintains a 24-hour marine pollution notification at the three marine rescue centres. It coordinates exercises and tests of national and local pollution response plans.

The first Irish Coast Guard volunteer to die on duty was Caitriona Lucas, a highly trained member of the Doolin Coast Guard unit, while assisting in a search for a missing man by the Kilkee unit in September 2016. Six months later, four Irish Coast Guard helicopter crew – Dara Fitzpatrick, Mark Duffy, Paul Ormsby and Ciarán Smith -died when their Sikorsky S-92 struck Blackrock island off the Mayo coast on March 14, 2017. The Dublin-based Rescue 116 crew were providing "top cover" or communications for a medical emergency off the west coast and had been approaching Blacksod to refuel. Up until the five fatalities, the Irish Coast Guard recorded that more than a million "man hours" had been spent on more than 30,000 rescue missions since 1991.

Several investigations were initiated into each incident. The Marine Casualty Investigation Board was critical of the Irish Coast Guard in its final report into the death of Caitriona Lucas, while a separate Health and Safety Authority investigation has been completed, but not published. The Air Accident Investigation Unit final report into the Rescue 116 helicopter crash has not yet been published.

The Irish Coast Guard in its present form dates back to 1991, when the Irish Marine Emergency Service was formed after a campaign initiated by Dr Joan McGinley to improve air/sea rescue services on the west Irish coast. Before Irish independence, the British Admiralty was responsible for a Coast Guard (formerly the Water Guard or Preventative Boat Service) dating back to 1809. The West Coast Search and Rescue Action Committee was initiated with a public meeting in Killybegs, Co Donegal, in 1988 and the group was so effective that a Government report was commissioned, which recommended setting up a new division of the Department of the Marine to run the Marine Rescue Co-Ordination Centre (MRCC), then based at Shannon, along with the existing coast radio service, and coast and cliff rescue. A medium-range helicopter base was established at Shannon within two years. Initially, the base was served by the Air Corps.

The first director of what was then IMES was Capt Liam Kirwan, who had spent 20 years at sea and latterly worked with the Marine Survey Office. Capt Kirwan transformed a poorly funded voluntary coast and cliff rescue service into a trained network of cliff and sea rescue units – largely voluntary, but with paid management. The MRCC was relocated from Shannon to an IMES headquarters at the then Department of the Marine (now Department of Transport) in Leeson Lane, Dublin. The coast radio stations at Valentia, Co Kerry, and Malin Head, Co Donegal, became marine rescue-sub-centres.

The current director is Chris Reynolds, who has been in place since August 2007 and was formerly with the Naval Service. He has been seconded to the head of mission with the EUCAP Somalia - which has a mandate to enhance Somalia's maritime civilian law enforcement capacity – since January 2019.

  • Achill, Co. Mayo
  • Ardmore, Co. Waterford
  • Arklow, Co. Wicklow
  • Ballybunion, Co. Kerry
  • Ballycotton, Co. Cork
  • Ballyglass, Co. Mayo
  • Bonmahon, Co. Waterford
  • Bunbeg, Co. Donegal
  • Carnsore, Co. Wexford
  • Castlefreake, Co. Cork
  • Castletownbere, Co. Cork
  • Cleggan, Co. Galway
  • Clogherhead, Co. Louth
  • Costelloe Bay, Co. Galway
  • Courtown, Co. Wexford
  • Crosshaven, Co. Cork
  • Curracloe, Co. Wexford
  • Dingle, Co. Kerry
  • Doolin, Co. Clare
  • Drogheda, Co. Louth
  • Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin
  • Dunmore East, Co. Waterford
  • Fethard, Co. Wexford
  • Glandore, Co. Cork
  • Glenderry, Co. Kerry
  • Goleen, Co. Cork
  • Greencastle, Co. Donegal
  • Greenore, Co. Louth
  • Greystones, Co. Wicklow
  • Guileen, Co. Cork
  • Howth, Co. Dublin
  • Kilkee, Co. Clare
  • Killala, Co. Mayo
  • Killybegs, Co. Donegal
  • Kilmore Quay, Co. Wexford
  • Knightstown, Co. Kerry
  • Mulroy, Co. Donegal
  • North Aran, Co. Galway
  • Old Head Of Kinsale, Co. Cork
  • Oysterhaven, Co. Cork
  • Rosslare, Co. Wexford
  • Seven Heads, Co. Cork
  • Skerries, Co. Dublin Summercove, Co. Cork
  • Toe Head, Co. Cork
  • Tory Island, Co. Donegal
  • Tramore, Co. Waterford
  • Waterville, Co. Kerry
  • Westport, Co. Mayo
  • Wicklow
  • Youghal, Co. Cork

Sources: Department of Transport © Afloat 2020

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