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Displaying items by tag: National Bravery Awards

Outstanding courage in sea and river rescues has been recognised in the National Bravery Awards presented at Dublin’s Farmleigh House today (Friday, Nov 10).

A total of 26 certificates, six bronze medals,13 silver medals and a posthumous gold medal were presented by the Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl of the Dáil to individuals from across Ireland who risked their own lives to aid others in peril.

Several medals were awarded for rescues from the water dating back to 1947 and 1964, while a Staffordshire terrier dog also played a key role in a river rescue in Kilkenny several years ago.

A posthumous gold medal award and certificate for bravery were conferred on the late James Nicholl for the attempted rescue of a young man who jumped from the Grattan bridge into the river Liffey around 1.20 am on April 8th last (2023).

The citation states that a close friend of the man in the river had called for help, and James Nicholl stepped forward, saying he would try to save the young man.

Noreen and Jimmy who accept the award on behalf of their son, James Nicholl is posthumously awarded a Gold Medal and a Certificate of BraveryNoreen and Jimmy who accept the award on behalf of their son, James Nicholl (pictured below) is posthumously awarded a Gold Medal and a Certificate of Bravery Photo: MaxwellsJimmy (James) Nicholl who received a posthumous gold medal at the national bravery awards for trying to rescue a young man from the river Liffey last April. This portrait of him by photographer Conor Horgan appeared in Horgan's "Unpublished Dublin" exhibition in the Little Museum of Dublin in 2014. Photo: Conor HorganJimmy (James) Nicholl who received a posthumous gold medal at the national bravery awards for trying to rescue a young man from the river Liffey last April. This portrait of him by photographer Conor Horgan appeared in Horgan's "Unpublished Dublin" exhibition in the Little Museum of Dublin in 2014. Photo: Conor Horgan

“The man calling for help told James not to go in if he couldn’t swim, but although Nicholl did not know the young man in the water, he insisted he would help,” it states.

“According to the man who was calling for help, Nicholl said ‘I am ex-army, I will get him’ and jumped into the dark Liffey waters to try and save the young man in distress,” it says.

“Several lifebuoys were thrown into the water by people on the edge of the river, and both An Garda Síochána and Dublin Fire Brigade searched from the quayside for some time, but neither man could be located,” it states.

“Shortly after 6 am, the body of James Nicholl was recovered from the water beside Millennium Bridge by the Garda Water Unit. The search continued, and sometime later, the body of the young man he had attempted to save was recovered from the water beside the Ha’Penny Bridge,” it says, stating Nicholl was posthumously awarded a gold medal for his “brave and selfless actions”.

Recipients from Wexford, Kildare, Laois, Cork, Kerry, Limerick, Mayo, Meath, Wicklow, Donegal and Dublin were honoured at the ceremony for acts of bravery and courage.

Among the sea and river rescue recipients were Darren Byrnes and Ian Bolger, both of Co Clare, who were awarded certificates of bravery for the attempted rescue of a man and a child from the sea at Doonbeg on August 13th, 2022.

Darren Byrnes and Ian Bolger, who both received Certificates of Bravery at the Oireachtas National Bravery Awards, when Gardaí received a report of swimmers in difficulty at Doughmore Beach, Doonbeg, Co Clare Photo: MaxwellsDarren Byrnes and Ian Bolger, who both received Certificates of Bravery at the Oireachtas National Bravery Awards, when Gardaí received a report of swimmers in difficulty at Doughmore Beach, Doonbeg, Co Clare Photo: Maxwells

“Darren and Ian entered the water and swam in the direction of the pair,” the citation states.

“Although they reached the struggling man and child, they were forced to abandon their efforts to save them as the sea conditions were too rough and they were in serious difficulty themselves,” it says.

“Gardaí spoke to Ian and Darren at the scene, who were both cold and visibly shaken. Thankfully, the boy’s uncle managed to get himself to safety, and the boy managed to tread water until he was rescued by the Irish Coast Guard helicopter,” it states.

Donnchadh Kennedy, who received a Bronze Medal and a Certificate of Bravery at the Oireachtas National Bravery Awards with his daughter Fleur, 8, and father, Garret,Donnchadh Kennedy, who received a Bronze Medal and a Certificate of Bravery at the Oireachtas National Bravery Awards with his daughter Fleur, 8, and father, Garret,

Donnchadh Kennedy, who received a Bronze Medal and a Certificate of Bravery at the Oireachtas National Bravery Awards with his daughter Fleur, 8, and father, Garret

Kennedy was surfing off the strand when he was alerted by people on the beach and nearby cliffs that there was a swimmer in difficulty in the sea about 80 metres from his position in the water, the citation states.

“ He immediately paddled through three to four-foot waves and into the rip current to the location of the swimmer. As he approached her, she went under the waves, and he grabbed her and attempted to get her on to his surfboard,” it states.

“She finally managed to cling to the board, and with great difficulty, he eventually paddled out of the rip current, and another surfer came to help,” it says.

“They were bringing her towards the beach when Donnchadh was alerted to another man in difficulty in the water. He turned and paddled back out into the current again and managed to help the man to grab hold of his surfboard,” it says.

“ Although exhausted from the effort, he paddled back out of the rip current and, with the aid of another surfer, the man was brought safely to shore,” it states.

Don O’Neil and Donal Hanley, both of Kerry, were each awarded a bronze medal and certificate of bravery for the rescue of a man from the sea at Ballyheigue on September 24th, 2022.

Donal Hanley, who received a Bronze Medal and Certificate of Bravery at the Oireachtas National Bravery AwardsDonal Hanley, who received a Bronze Medal and Certificate of Bravery at the Oireachtas National Bravery Awards

The citation states that a man, who was a regular sea swimmer, found himself caught in a rip tide while swimming in the sea off Ballyheigue beach.

“He began shouting for help and was struggling to stay afloat when Donal Hanley and Don O’Neil entered the water and swam out to

him. At this point, he was some distance offshore and all three were swept out further to sea while struggling to stay afloat in the strong current,” it states.

“Due to the current and the sea conditions, all three were in fear for their lives, but after some time battling the waves, all three eventually got back to the safety of the beach,” it states.

“ The rescued man, who was a strong and experienced swimmer, was very appreciative of the assistance of both Don and Donal and recognised they were instrumental in saving his life that day,” it states.

Michael McKeon was awarded a bronze medal and certificate of bravery for the attempted rescue of a man who had got into difficulty off Seapoint, Blackrock, Co Dublin, on August 17th, 2021.

McKeon was getting dressed after swimming at Seapoint with friends when they heard a cry for help from the water and could see two people in the sea at a distance offshore of about 100m.

“One of the two was waving and shouting while trying to keep the other afloat. Although it was getting dark and Michael had already been swimming, he re-entered the water along with another man and swam out to the men in the water,” the citation states.

“They brought the man back to the bank, and members of the emergency services started CPR on the man. Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of all involved, the man remained unresponsive and was later pronounced dead,” it states.

David Doran who received a Silver Medal and a Certificate of Bravery at the Oireachtas National Bravery AwardsDavid Doran who received a Silver Medal and a Certificate of Bravery at the Oireachtas National Bravery Awards Photo: Maxwells

David Doran of Wicklow was awarded a silver medal and certificate of bravery for the rescue of a man from heavy seas at Bray Beach, Co Wicklow, on April 24th, 2022.

Doran had set out to go for a swim at the harbour end of Bray beach but decided against it as the sea swell was significant and it was a damp and cold day.

“ As he was about to leave, he noticed some women pointing out to sea and trying to raise some attention. Following their directions, David saw a man flailing in the water about 70 - 80 metres out to sea beyond the rocks at the end of the beach,” the citation states.

“The conditions were so poor that no one was willing to go into the water. In spite of his own misgivings about the sea state, David swam out through the waves to reach the man who was by then slipping in and out of consciousness,” it states.

“After reaching the man, David swam back to the shore, dragging the man with him through the waves and difficult currents. An ambulance was called and CPR was performed on the man who thankfully recovered from the ordeal,” it says.

Fred Corcoran of Dublin was awarded a silver medal and certificate of bravery for the rescue of a young girl who had fallen into the River Dodder in July 1947.

Fred Corcoran, who received a Silver Medal and a Certificate of Bravery at the Oireachtas National Bravery Awards with his daughters Rhona and OrlaFred Corcoran, who received a Silver Medal and a Certificate of Bravery at the Oireachtas National Bravery Awards with his daughters Rhona and Orla

“ In July 1947, Fred Corcoran, who was then aged about 15, saw a crowd leaning over railings on Londonbridge Road at the edge of the River Dodder screaming for help,” the citation says.

“Fred rushed over and saw that there was a young blonde-haired girl struggling out in the middle of the river. There was an exceptionally high tide, and the river was full at the time,” it states.

“The girl went under the water just as Fred saw her, so he removed

his jacket and dived from the railings into the water. He swam out to her, and although she was submerged, he saw a small clump of her blonde hair and pulling her up he managed to swim back to the Dodder wall,”it states.

“He stood on the submerged debris of an old wartime air raid shelter and stretched up to hand the little girl into the waiting arms of onlookers. The girl was whisked away in an ambulance, and Fred was eventually helped out of the water,” it states.

Tom Fitzgerald of Dublin was awarded a silver medal, and both he and John Burke of Sligo were awarded certificates of bravery for the rescue of three young boys from the River Shannon on September 19th, 1964.

“At around 3 o'clock on Saturday, September 19th, 1964, three boys were playing in a boat at the quays in Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Leitrim,” the citation states.

“ The boat started to drift away on the current, and the three boys began to panic as none of them could swim. Tom Fitzgerald, who was then just ten years old, saw one of the boys, a five-year-old, jump into deep water from the boat,” it says.

“Tom plunged into the water and swam to the boy and brought him ashore. He then went back into the water to assist an older boy who had also jumped from the boat to help but was in danger of drowning himself,” it says.

“ When Tom brought this boy to the quay wall, John Burke, who was 14 at the time began artificial respiration until a local doctor arrived and they succeeded in reviving the unconscious boy. Meanwhile, Tom went back into the water to help the third boy who was holding on to the side of the boat,”it says.

“ Tom helped this boy back into the boat brought back to the quayside.

Francis Doherty of Donegal was awarded a silver medal and certificate of bravery for the rescue of a woman from the sea at Carrickfin Beach, Co Donegal, on May 15th, 2022.

One of two women swimming there got caught in a riptide current, and the second woman swam to the shore and began calling for help.

“Due to the sea conditions, nobody on the beach felt confident enough to attempt a rescue and by now, the woman caught in the water was exhausted trying to fight against the current and was several hundred metres from shore,” the citation states.

“Francis Doherty took a life ring and started swimming out to sea. When he finally reached the woman, he put one of her arms into the ring and told her to hold on,” it states.

“However, exhausted by the strain and cold, she passed out, and Francis had to take hold of her by the wrist and pull her. As the waves rose, he lifted her head above the water and swam into the waves that thankfully took them towards the shore,” it says.

“ Several men ran to meet them and pulled them both safely ashore. The woman was examined by the paramedics and flown to hospital by helicopter, but thankfully, she was released three days later,” it states.

Kevin O’Sullivan of Cork was awarded a silver medal and certificate of bravery for the rescue of a woman from the River Lee near South Gate Bridge, Cork, on November 6th, 2020.

That evening, a woman entered the River Lee near the South Gate Bridge in Cork city and was swept by a strong current towards the South Gate bridge, the citation states.

“Kevin O’Sullivan was out with friends, and on seeing the woman in distress, he climbed down to the river and began swimming towards the woman,” it says.

“ The woman was screaming for help and fighting the current and was about to go under water before Kevin reached her. Kevin's friends threw life buoys into the river, and while keeping the woman above water, Kevin managed to drag her to a buoy,” it says.

“From there, he and the woman were reeled to the nearest ladder at Sullivan's quay, where Gardaí and members of the fire brigade were waiting. An exhausted Kevin was examined for possible secondary drowning, while the woman was taken to hospital and kept in for treatment,” it says.

Conor Power of Wicklow received a silver medal and bravery certificate for rescuing a woman from heavy seas near Greystones, Co Wicklow.

Conor Power who received a Silver Medal and a Certificate of Bravery at the Oireachtas National Bravery AwardsConor Power who received a Silver Medal and a Certificate of Bravery at the Oireachtas National Bravery Awards Photo: Maxwells

Power arrived at the northern end of Greystones South Beach on November 11th, 2020, to train for the practical element of his PE Leaving Certificate examination. The sea conditions were severe, and training was cancelled, the citation says.

“However, as he went to get the bus home, he became aware of a woman struggling in the water and being pushed towards the rocks by the sea,” it says.

“ A bystander told him she had been struggling for some time, and so Conor decided he had to attempt a rescue. Taking a ring buoy, he swam through the waves for about 200 metres to reach the woman. He gave her the buoy, and holding onto the rope, he tried to tow her clear of the dangerous rocks,”it says.

“After much effort, he got her clear of immediate danger, but the effort, cold water, wind and waves had exhausted him, and Conor told the woman to hold onto the ring buoy, and that help was on its way,” it says.

“ He swam back to shore, where he was put in an ambulance and treated for the cold and given oxygen. Subsequently, he was brought to St Vincent's Hospital A&E where he was observed for around three hours prior to release,” it says.

“ The woman was recovered from the sea by helicopter and evacuated to hospital where she is understood to have made a full recovery,” it says.

David Dunne of Kilkenny and Mike Bolger of Carlow were each awarded a silver medal and certificate of bravery for rescuing three children and a man from the River Barrow in Graiguenamanagh, Co Kilkenny, on June 1st, 2020.

The two men were in a local park when they heard screaming from the river and saw a man and three children in difficulty in the water.

“ David and Mike jumped into the river, and David swam to reach one of the children and the man struggling against the strong river current,” the citation says.

“Meanwhile, Mike began trying to rescue another of the children, a girl who had become trapped in a weir,”the citation says.

The girl was being pushed under the water by the force of the weir stopper wave.

“The water was so rapid that Mike also got caught in the whirlpool and was struggling to keep them both above water,”it states.

“ At this point Mike’s dog, a Staffordshire terrier called Clyde, jumped in and Mike pushed the girl towards the dog. The girl grabbed on to Clyde which left Mike free to swim with his two hands so that he was able to get out of the whirlpool, but he was struggling to get the girl to safety,”it says.

“By now David had got the man and boy ashore, and then swam to another girl who was clinging to a tree out in the middle of the river. He managed to push her to the wall of the weir and they both scrambled up,”it says.

“David then ran over the weir, grabbing Mike's hand as he was going under, and together they got the girl to safety,”it says.

Callum Clarke of Roscommon was awarded a silver medal and certificate of bravery for the rescue of his grandfather from a lake near Tulsk, Co Roscommon on September 17th, 2021.

 Callum Clarke who received a Silver Medal and a Certificate of Bravery at the Oireachtas National Bravery Awards Callum Clarke who received a Silver Medal and a Certificate of Bravery at the Oireachtas National Bravery Awards

Clarke, then aged eleven, was fishing from a boat with his grandfather, Sean, on Killina lake that evening when a freak gust of wind tipped Sean into the water. As he tried to surface, the boat began to capsize.

“ Sean went under the surface but was brought up by Callum grabbing his collar. Although they were both wearing life jackets, Sean’s failed to inflate, and with both of them in the freezing cold water, Callum grabbed a board from the overturned boat and told his grandfather to hold on to it as the pair paddled to shore,”it says.

“When they made it to shore, Sean was struggling to breathe, and young Callum ran to their car to get his phone and raise the alarm,” it says.

“After being brought out of the water, Sean was taken by ambulance to Mullingar General Hospital where he was detained briefly before making a full recovery,” it says.

Speaking at the ceremony, the Ceann Comhairle Mr Ó Fearghaíl said that “today the Irish State recognises and celebrates the noblest impulse in a human being, the impulse to risk our lives in order to save someone else’s”.

“But just as importantly, what these awards also do is mark the importance of the lives that were saved and also those that were lost.

I say this because in several instances, we are making awards where, despite brave actions and valiant efforts, lives were tragically lost,” he said.

“Those involved in these attempts know how hard they struggled, the families of those lost appreciate their efforts as do we, the Irish nation,” he said.

The annual honours are awarded by Comhairle na Míre Gaile – the Deeds of Bravery Council – which was founded 76 years ago in 1947 to enable State recognition of exceptional Acts of Bravery.

The council is chaired by the Ceann Comhairle and includes the Cathaoirleach of Seanad Éireann, the Lord Mayors of Dublin and Cork, the Garda Commissioner, the President of the Association of City and County Councils, and the Chairman of the Irish Red Cross.

Published in Rescue

Individuals who risked their own lives to aid others in peril on the water made up the bulk of this year’s National Bravery Awards, which were presented by the Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl on Friday (12 November).

The ceremony at Farmleigh House in Dublin’s Phoenix Park brought recipients together to receive their Certificates of Bravery for 17 acts of bravery. There were also nine Bronze Medals for Bravery awarded, while another six recipients received Silver Medals for Bravery.

“What these awards celebrate is the noblest impulse within a human being, to risk their life in order to save another,” the Ceann Comhairle said.

“We honour people who leaped into stormy seas, who braved swollen rivers, climbed down cliffs, assisted at road traffic collisions and performed other remarkable deeds. Through their actions there are people alive today who would undoubtedly have died.”

The crew of the Waterford-based Irish Coast Guard helicopter Rescue 117 were each awarded a Certificate of Bravery for their efforts to evacuate seven from a fishing vessel that sank at Kenmare Bay in March this year.

Sarah Courtney, Ronan Flanagan and Adrian O’Hara from Waterford and Aaron Hyland from Galway each received Certificates of Bravery, and for her actions Sarah Courtney was also awarded a Silver Medal.

Four visiting Americans were commended after leaping into action to rescue a young girl who was swept out to sea on an inflatable at Portmarnock Beach in July 2019.

Walter Butler — a member of the US Coast Guard — and his relatives Declan Butler, Eoghan Butler and Alexander Hugh Thomson from Arlington, Virginia each received a Certificate of Bravery.

Another incident at Portmarnock the following month saw Gerard Tyrrell receive a Bronze Medal and a Certificate of Bravery for his rescue of two girls blown out to sea on an inflatable flamingo.

Shane Moloney was commended for saving his father Noel’s life after the boat they were moving out of a field behind their North Cork home struck overhead power lines, delivering a near-fatal 10,000-volt electric shock.

Beth Darrer and Niamh McMahon each received a Bronze Medal and a Certificate of Bravery for their swift response to help rescue four young men who got into difficulty in the water at Inchydoney Beach in May 2020.

For her selfless actions in rescuing a father and his three daughters swept out to sea off Portsalon Beach in Co Donegal in July 2020, Jane Friel was awarded a Bronze Medal and a Certificate of Bravery.

Scott McQuaid was honoured with a Silver Medal and a Certificate of Bravery for his rescue of a young boy who had got into difficulty with his father when their kayak capsized at Ardreigh Lock on the River Barrow in Athy in February this year.

Zoey Lally rescued three teenage boys who were swept into the sea from Easkey Pier by a high wave in March this year, and received a Silver Medal and a Certificate of Bravery for her actions.

A number of gardaí were also commended in this years awards, with Garda Keenan McGavisk and Garda Róisín O’Donnell receiving Bronze Medals for their rescue of a distressed man from a fast-flowing river in Ardee, Co Louth in March last year, and Garda Caroline O’Brien also getting a Bronze Medal for saving the life of a young man who entered the water near St John’s Quay in Kilkenny in July 2019.

And 26 years after her crucial lifesaving actions, a Silver Medal and Certificate of Braver were awarded to Susan Hackett for the rescue of two young people who got into difficulty while swimming in the River Suir new Newcastle, Co Tipperary in the summer of 1995.

The National Bravery Awards are awarded annually by Comhairle na Míre Gaile – the Deeds of Bravery Council – which was founded in 1947 to enable State recognition of exceptional acts of bravery.

The council is chaired by the Ceann Comhairle and includes the Cathaoirleach of Seanad Éireann, the Lord Mayors of Dublin and Cork, the Garda Commissioner, the President of the Association of City & County Councils and the chairman of the Irish Red Cross.

Published in Rescue

#Coastguard - The late Irish Coast Guard volunteer Caitriona Lucas has been recognised in this year’s National Bravery Awards.

The Posthumous Gold Medal and Certificate of Bravery were presented to Lucas’ family at Farmleigh House yesterday (Friday 20 October) a year after she died during a search operation in Kilkee when her RIB capsized.

“Catriona’s courage and selfless action on that day says everything about her — her strength of character and spirit and willingness to help others,” said Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó’ Fearghaíl, who presented the awards to 15 recipients.

“It is also a reminder of how committed and brave members of our emergency services put their lives on the line on a daily basis to help and protect their communities.

“Caitriona’s family accepted a Gold Medal for Bravery in recognition of her courage, which is the highest award possible.”

Others recognised at the ceremony yesterday include Darren McMahon, who was awarded a Certificate of Bravery for his attempt to rescue his brother from a kayak trapped in a weir gate in Ennis.

Bronze Medals and Certificates of Bravery also went to scouts Sean Baitson, Kyle Corrigan, Cory Ridge Grenelle and Philip Byrne for their attempts to rescue 14-year-old Aoife Winterlich, who died after being swept into the sea during an outing at Hook Head Lighthouse in December 2015.

Byrne in particular was noted for his efforts to keep Winterlich afloat in the rough waters before help arrived.

Published in Coastguard

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