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The island folklore of Oileáin Árann has been collated on a new website by residents of Inis Mór, working with a number of academic partners.

Bailiúchán Béaloidis Árann, the Árainn Folklore Project, has been “more than twenty years a-growing”, according to the project’s digital curator, Deirdre Ní Chonghaile.

The website includes hundreds of photographs and over 100 audio recordings, as well as some videos collected over the past two decades.

All of these are enriched with detailed information, identifying the individuals and places appearing in them, she says.

The website’s search capacity extends to a variety of elements, with transcriptions written by island women accompanying the sound recordings of interviews.

Bailiúchán Béaloidis Árann, the Árainn Folklore Projectailiúchán Béaloidis Árann, the Árainn Folklore Project

Bailiúchán Béaloidis Árann is the only major collection of island folklore to be created by Inis Mór islanders themselves, Ní Chonghaile says.

Over many years since 2000, Bailiúchán Béaloidis Árann has earned support from major figures of the Aran canon, including photographer Bill Doyle, writer and cartographer Tim Robinson, and linguist Dr James Duran, she says.

It has also produced “two fine books”, Árainn: Cosáin an tSaoil (2003) and Ár nOileán: Tuile is Trá (2004), she says.

Bailiúchán Béaloidis Árann had two primary objectives: to preserve island folklore for future generations of islanders; and to ensure that the islands’ folklore would be accessible. The new website “enables islanders to combine those two objectives”, Ní Chonghaile says.

Collaborators on the project are Gaois, Fiontar and Scoil na Gaeilge, Dublin City University, and the National Folklore Collection at University College Dublin, the co-creators of the website dú

Funders included the LEADER scheme, the Heritage Council of Ireland, and the local co-op Comharchumann Forbartha Árann.

“Though the entire collection awaits a permanent home at home in Árainn, we remain hopeful its day will come. In the meantime, people will savour and delight in this new resource, which demonstrates so well the faith and creativity of the women who created,” she says.

The website was formally initiated by Dr Críostóir Mac Cárthaigh, director of the National Folklore Collection, in Kilmurvey House on Árainn on Friday (Jan 6).

Published in Island News
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A European system of measuring the impact of tourism on communities is to be introduced on a number of islands off the west Irish coast this summer.

Three Aran islands and Inishbofin off Galway, along with Donegal’s Tory and Arranmore, will participate in the project led by researchers from the new Atlantic Technological University (ATU).

The European Tourism Indicator System (ETIS) was developed by the European Commission as an evidence-based model for collecting information and measuring impacts.

It involves collecting data on 43 specific areas, ranging from tourist spending patterns to gender equality, inclusion and accessibility, transport impact, climate change, energy consumption, waste generation and sewage treatment.

The system helps to measure trends over time, such as the rising percentage of women in management roles; changes in waste water quality; reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, and changing impacts of tourism in the community.

The researchers will work with communities, tourism stakeholders and destination managers on gathering the information which will better inform the sustainable management of island tourism, according to ATU president Dr Orla Flynn.

State agencies Fáilte Ireland and Údarás na Gaeltachta, along with local authorities, will also support the project.

Up until now, detailed tourism indicators have been limited, but the ETIS is a very accessible international model, Dr Diarmuid Ó Conghaíle, ATU’s head of department for heritage and tourism, explained.

“While we are starting with the four Galway islands - and Tory and Arranmore with the support of Údarás na Gaeltachta - the aim is to incorporate all offshore islands from about 2024,” he said.

“It will allow the islands to compare their performance on tourism, will inform planning and sustainable management, and may even create a bit of competition, “Ó Conghaíle said.

“We are hosting community briefings with the participating islands in May, and will be collecting data from the end of that month,” he said.

“The project will be developed through online surveys, with a particular set of questions for the community, for tourists and for tourism operators,” Ó Conghaíle said.

“The information may be gathered digitally or through paper surveys as we are keen to make sure everyone is involved, and everyone has access to the information, “he said.

Given that the data will be “evidence-based”, it will help to support funding applications at national and European level, he said. The information will be published on a dedicated website.

“This is the first year, and we hope this will be an annual ATU project,” he said.

The ATU involves the Galway-Mayo, Sligo and Letterkenny institutes of technology.

The west/north-west group was formally initiated earlier this month by the Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris after technological university status was granted last year to the three institutes.

Published in Aquatic Tourism
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The artists’ exhibition of 21 currachs used as canvases which ran over the summer on the Aran island of Inis Oírr transfers into NUI Galway for Culture Night.

Irish international sculptor John Behan RHA, Tuam-based visual artist Jennifer Cunningham, Mayo-based Ger Sweeney, and Sadia Shoaib, who has been living in direct provision for the past six years, are among those who were given currachs to use as canvases.

Inis Oírr arts centre artistic director Dara McGee painted his own interpretation - entitled Under A Mackerel Sky – which also forms part of the exhibition, hosted by Áras Éanna.

NUI Galway and Áras Éanna will open the exhibition on Friday morning (Sept 17th) in the university’s quadrangle in partnership with Galway Music Residency, ConTempo Quartet.

The quartet will perform a specially selected suite of classical and contemporary music connected to the ocean, composed by Alec Roth, Claude Debussy and Katharina Baker.

The work of Kathleen FureyThe work of Kathleen Furey

NUI Galway drama students will also take part in the event, reciting a selection of poetry by Máirtín Ó Direáin.

A new partnership between NUI Galway and Áras Éanna will also be announced, with the aim of working to promote the islands and the west as places of culture, learning and research.

The university says it has established a new fund to support staff and students who wish to travel to Inis Oírr and use the facilities at Áras Éanna as part of their studies.

Published in Island News
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Islanders with expertise in stone have completed a “jigsaw puzzle” of rock upon timber for an Irish language production of Beckett’s Happy Days on the Aran island of Inis Oírr.

As The Times Ireland reports, director Sarah Jane Scaife worked with designer Ger Clancy and a number of islanders to construct the outdoor set in preparation for the Galway International Arts Festival.

“We all have experience of building stone walls, but this was different,”Inis Oírr resident Matt Seoighe said.

“Tomás Noel Sharry was our stonemason, and five of us worked together in a field at Creig an Staic, and it was difficult enough,” Seoighe said.

Actors Bríd Ní Neachtain and Raymond Keane have been cast as Winnie and Willie for Laethanta Sona, which was translated by Michéal Ó Chonghaíle.

“I’ve been coming here for 28 years and have always been inspired by the place, which is both surreal and existential” Scaife explained.

“My husband, late sound engineer Tim Martin fished from here, my children have been coming since they were small - and after Tim died, so many islanders came for his funeral,”she said.

“So “Beckett sa Creig”, as we call it, has been 28 years a bubbling,” she explained.

Island photographer Cormac Coyne worked with Scaife for the production, which is a collaboration between Company SJ and the Abbey Theatre.

Costumes created by Sinead Cuthbert were inspired by flowers that grow between the cracks in the rock, as Winnie herself appears from the cracks in the rock.

An accompanying exhibition in the island’s arts centre, Áras Éanna documents the building of the set and interviews and photos with women on the island.

Curacha, the exhibition of currachs used as canvases by artists, is also continuing at Áras Éanna and on an outdoor trail until September 12th.

Tickets for the Inis Oírr production of Laethanta Sona from August 30th to September 5th have already been booked out.

However, the play will be performed with subtitles at the Dublin Theatre Festival from October 14th to 17th, with online booking from August 24th.

Read The Times Ireland here

Published in Island News
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Turbot Island's main claim to fame has been its sighting by trans-Atlantic aviators John Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown before they crash-landed at Derrygimlagh bog in north Connemara on June 15th, 1919.

Turbot or “Inishturbot” is a few miles west of Clifden and south of Omey. One very sad and memorable event in its history was the loss of islanders Patrick O’Toole (58), Patrick Stuffle (48) and Michael Wallace (62) in September 1974.

The three men were on their way home to Turbot from watching the All Ireland football final in Clifden when their currach capsized.

Trans-Atlantic aviators John Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown sighted Turbot Island shortly before they crash-landed   Transatlantic aviators John Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown say they sighted Turbot Island shortly before they crash-landed in Connemara over one hundred years ago

Four years later, the population of about 60 was relocated to the mainland.

The ruin of the old schoolhouse on Turbot IslandThe ruin of the old schoolhouse on Turbot Island

That event was remembered last year with the release of a video, accompanied by music by Peter Knox. It was based on a poem called Turbot Men which was written by a mainland resident Joseph O’Toole after the fishermen drowned.

Peter Knox (left) and Turbot islander John O'ToolePeter Knox (left) and Turbot islander John O'Toole

Dutch couple and Turbot “new islanders” Stefan and Hanneke Frenkel who financed the video weathered last year’s first pandemic wave out there. Brian Hughes of the Abbeyglen Hotel in Clifden, who hosted the video’s launch, also has a house there.

Hanneke Frenkel collecting "sea rope" to make carpets last year on Turbot islandHanneke Frenkel (above and below) collecting "sea rope" to make carpets last year on Turbot islandHanneke Frenkel collecting "sea rope" to make carpets last year on Turbot island

This week’s Wavelengths podcast also has an interview with John O’Toole, whose house the Frenkel's purchased all those years ago. O’Toole was reared on Turbot, left at the age of ten, but maintains a strong connection with the island.

Published in Wavelength Podcast
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The Irish Islands' Federation has described as a "very unsatisfactory situation" that on offshore islands where there are not resident medical facilities or dispensaries, islanders are being required to travel to the mainland for Covid 19 vaccine injections.

The Secretary of Comhdháil Oileán na hEireann (the Islands' Federation), Rhoda Twombly, said this showed a lack of foresight and consideration and particularly affected older islanders who had been isolating for a year.

Published in Island News
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The challenges for the economies of Ireland’s offshore islands in a “post-COVID world” will be discussed with a number of contributors at a “virtual summit” next Wednesday (Sept 2).

Comdháil Oileáín na hÉireann, the Irish Island Federation, is supporting the free “webinar”, hosted by Dr Noirín Burke of the Irish Ocean Literacy Network and Trish Hegarty of Inis Communications in Donegal.

As Afloat previously reported, The “webinar” is Ireland’s “virtual hub event” for the second global Virtual Island Summit, involving over 100 island communities, from September 7th to 13th.

“Islanders work hard to maintain their economies, stay connected and create a sustainable future, something that has been extra challenging this year with Covid-19,” Dr Burke says.

Ms Hegarty says the event will explore how islands connect “to each other, to the mainland and to other islands across Europe and the world”.

Islanders working in enterprise, economic and community development and other experts working with island communities in areas like energy, sustainability, technology and connectivity will participate.

Irish Island Federation secretary Rhoda Twombly noted that her members are “more than used to connecting online” because of their physical distance and separation from the mainland.

“But in this time of social distancing and such an uncertain future, it’s more important than ever to strengthen our national and global connections to learn from each other’s experiences,”she said.

Contributors to the event include Virtual Island Summit founder and “Forbes Top 30 under 30” innovator James Ellsmoor; Ms Twombly and John Walsh of Comhdháil Oileáin na hÉireann and the European Small Islands Federation; Cathy Ní Ghóill, manager of Comharchumann Forbartha Arann; and Máirtín Ó Méalóid, manager of Cape Clear Island Cooperative and Comhdháil Oileáin na hÉireann vice-chair.

Also contributing are award-winning Mayo-based journalist Áine Ryan, who is interested in issues affecting rural and peripheral communities; University College, Cork researcher Dr Sarah Robinson, who is working with island communities on Bere, Sherkin and Cape Clear to establish community radio; Irish Tech News chief editor Simon Cocking; and Brendan Smith, education and public engagement officer at the Insight Centre for Data Analytics in Galway.

Attendance is free but registration is essential to take part.

To register on Zoom, click here

Published in Island News
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Historial Castle Island in Roaringwater Bay off the coast of Schull, West Cork is on the market for offers in excess of €1m.

The island is located immediately east of the entrance to Schull Harbour and south-west of Horse Island. It is readily accessed from either Schull Harbour or Rossbrin Cove.

It is one of very few privately owned islands in the area.

The island, which extends to approximately 123.85 acres or c. 50.12 hectares, was home to a small community of approximately fifteen families who were last resident on the Island up to the year 1870.

A substantial Pier and Slipway that offers very considerable shelter and access to the island in most weather conditions at all tidal stagesA substantial Pier and Slipway that offers very considerable shelter and access to the island in most weather conditions at all tidal stages

According to the auctioneer Dominic Daly, the ruins of the original three clusters of houses which made up the community are situated in three distinct locations the first at the pier where the original O’Mahony Castle stands and the other two at each end of the island. Lazy beds can be detected near one of the clusters of houses which look out across Roaringwater Bay and onward to Fastnet lighthouse a naturally beautiful landscape. Currently, the island is in use for agricultural purposes. Tillage was undertaken there in the past. It is now used for grazing.

There is a substantial Pier and Slipway that offers very considerable shelter and access to the island in most weather conditions at all tidal stages. A number of adjoining islands in Roaringwater Bay are inhabited – some with small communities (Long Island, Heir Island, Sherkin Island, Cape Clear Island) and others by single families (West Skeam Island, Horse Island).

Castle Island, Roaringwater BayCastle Island, Roaringwater Bay

Castle Island is home to one of a number of ruined O’Mahony Castles – one of a string along the coastline, all within sight of each other and sited strategically to control the waters of Roaringwater Bay and their abundant resources. The O’Mahony’s became extremely wealthy in their day, charging for fishing and fish processing facilities and for supplies and fresh water. They also formed strong alliances with the Spanish and French fishing fleet and any visitors who worked these waters an alliance that came to the attention of the English crown, which lead to the O’Mahony’s demise in the area.

It is a great opportunity for anyone interested in all water sports particularly sailing and fishing. It also benefits from the warm Gulf Stream and mild south westerly winds. The island can offer total solitude with substantial scope to develop it’s considerable amenities. There are extensive amenities in the area with multiple Harbours in Schull and Baltimore and also good shelter in Rossbin & Crookhaven as well as Cape Clear. In the far distance, the Fastnet Rock Lighthouse can be seen.

West Cork is a predominantly tourist area. It has rugged peninsulas, sandy beaches and bustling market towns. Future use of the island could be for private occupancy or tourism-related development or outdoor pursuits and/or agricultural use.

More details from auctioneer Dominic Daly here

Published in West Cork
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A documentary on how Tory island’s late king Patsy Dan Rodgers led his community’s efforts to secure their rights and a study of a “maverick islander” are scheduled for Galway Film Fleadh’s online programme this weekend.

French filmmaker Loic Jourdain is screening the world premiere of his latest feature on Tory island, entitled The Tribe of Gods.

The 92-minute documentary charts how the late Patsy Dan Rodgers, then the last King of Ireland, continued to represent his community of 150 Irish-speaking islanders after he was diagnosed with cancer.

Jourdain’s company Lugh Films, South-Wind Blows and Idée Originale previously made a documentary on Donegal islander John O’Brien, entitled A turning tide in the life of man, on his efforts to retain his right to fish for wild salmon.

The Tribe of Gods has a cast of Patsy Dan Mag Ruaidhri, Marjorie Uí Chearbhaill, Liam Gallagher, Laurene Boyle and Pádraig Gráinne Duggan, was shown on Saturday, July 11th and there is a trailer below.

Galway-based filmmaker Margaretta D’Arcy and producers Finn Arden and Laurie Allen has directed A Maverick Islander, which will screen on Sunday July 12th.

Her film is a study of Seán (John) Ó Loingsigh from south Connemara, described as “a philosopher, a dreamer, a self-appointed chieftain, a failed playwright, and a minority voice”.

The film charts his efforts to “rise above the elitism associated with the game of golf” and build a golf course in the bog which might also help to keep Connemara’s islands district, Ceantar na nOileán alive.

Activist, performer and film director Margaretta D’Arcy is now in her 87th year, and is a member of Aosdána. A Maverick Islander is available on Sunday July 12th at 1200 by booking here

A trailer for The Tribe of Gods is below

Published in Island News
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The common challenges faced by island communities will be shared during the second global Virtual Island Summit which takes place in September.

Some 140 ambassadors representing some 10,000 islanders will participate in the summit online from September 7th to 13th.

The event “seeks to build digital bridges between island communities around the world, regardless of size, political status, or location,” its founder James Ellsmoor, a “Forbes 30 Under 30” entrepreneur, says.

“Islands often face similar challenges to one another but are forced to tackle them separately due to barriers created by distance, language, and culture,” he says.

"We are an island nation set on the edge of Europe, with over a dozen populated offshore islands"

National Aquarium of Ireland director of education Dr Noirín Burke, who is a team member of the Irish Ocean Literacy Network, and Inis Communications director Trish Hegarty, based in Inishowen, Co Donegal, will participate in the summit.

“We are an island nation set on the edge of Europe, with over a dozen populated offshore islands,” Ms Hegarty says.

“ This summit gives us and our offshore islanders the chance to connect with other islanders across the globe and share lessons in island innovation,” she says.

Participating ambassadors will represent island communities ranging from Ireland to Öland in Sweden, from to Fiji to Jamaica to Hawai’i and Tierra del Fuego in Chile.

For more information, visit the Island Innovation website here

Published in Island News
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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