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During the process of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, there was, rightly, a great deal of focus in public debate on the issues confronting Ireland’s border communities. On 20 November 2020, the Irish Association for Contemporary European Studies (IACES) will be holding an online conference which aims to expand the terms of this debate, and to examine and deepen understanding of a key issue in Ireland’s relationship with the EU – that of the future of those coastal and port communities which, at the end of the transition period, will find themselves on a new frontier between the EU and the UK.

Bringing together academics, experts and stakeholders, this online conference and workshop aims to explore the key role played by Ireland’s ports, coastal communities and maritime sector in its membership of the EU; provide a forum in which issues confronting Ireland’s port and coastal communities as a result of Brexit, climate change and the coronavirus pandemic can be discussed; and, crucially, highlight how responses to these challenges are framed and influenced by Ireland’s EU membership.

​The conference will examine contemporary challenges for Ireland's ports, coasts and maritime sector, explore community projects that cross the maritime border between Ireland and Wales, and examine the long history of Ireland's cultural connections with the sea. Attendance is open to all, and further details and registration are available here.

Published in Ports & Shipping

There is a hidden wealth of literary talent in the North which deserves greater exposure and the book Shaped by the Sea produced by a team of volunteers in the East Antrim area is an excellent example writes Betty Armstrong

With Peace IV funding, a €270m unique initiative of the European Union designed to support peace and reconciliation, local woman Angeline King energised a group of people living in or connected to Larne and its environs, to produce what is a fascinating anthology described as ‘A sample of Larne’s Literary Heritage. That they did it in just eight weeks is a feat in itself.

Angeline had worked in international business for 20 years and decided to become a freelance writer who it is said: “will turn her hand to anything involving words”. She has managed to encourage this diverse group of participants, some of whom had never written before. to produce this 64-page anthology which throws a light of the rich heritage of a part of the country which many would associate with the ferry port of Larne and start of the world-famous Antrim Coast Road. There are stories about the town of Larne as well as Island Magee, Ballygally and Ballylumford.

Among those involved was author, nautical scribe and sailing enthusiast from East Antrim Boat Club, Tom Jobling, well known as a past Irish President of the GP14 International Association. His contribution is the fictional ‘A Leap of Faith’.

The nautically-themed stories, poems, folk tales, memoirs, and songs are interspersed with paintings by local artists Chris Gilbert and Janet Crymble and they give a fascinating insight into the life of people from Larne, Ballygally, and Island Magee area of East Antrim.

‘The Passing of the Old Order’ by Fear Flatha O Gnimh is a fitting introduction to the literature of Larne. The poet’s family (Agnew) were the chief poets for the Gaelic chieftains, the O’Neills and the MacDonalds. The other content depicts subjects ranging from mythical and real people and happenings.

The programme was part of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council’s St.Art project funded through Peace IV.

The first people arrived on the shores of this island some 10,000 years ago… according to history …. but as the Irish people of today listen to the campaigning of those who want to be elected as our rulers - those political hopefuls do not prioritise the maritime sphere and, in national debates on television, radio and in the print media, they have not referred to it.

What does that indicate?

That the marine does not rank as a priority matter, even though it is a vital channel of transport, food supply, energy, communication and leisure. You'll have to dig deep to find political manifesto commitments to maritime affairs.

Afloat has done that for you in its assessment of how the main parties perceive maritime matters. The conclusion reached is that: “This island nation still doesn't have a marine policy or a dedicated marine department. It’s a ship of state without a captain or a rudder.”

This is despite some commitments, such as ‘harnessing our ocean wealth..” though that seems to have stalled somewhat.

I actually like the fact that politicians and political parties, even Government Ministers and leaders of industry refer these days to “this island nation” a phrase I can claim some justification for promoting during my years of broadcasting, but I'm getting very fed up with politicians, government and all political parties in this General Election for their attitude towards the marine sphere.

boats tide outIs it because of lacking an outspoken approach that the maritime sphere is neglected?

The third biggest country in Europe, by virtue of our seabed territory of 220 million acres, as I’ve often heard quoted, but as fishermen will tell you, most of that was given away by the Government. That was put well this week by John Nolan, 37 years in the fishing industry and Managing Director of Castletowbere Fishermen’s Co-op, when he said Ireland was wronged, robbed of this huge economic resource and he blames politicians and the Civil Service administration.

The Irish Islands Council – Comhdhail Oilean na hEireann and fishing organisations – have called on election candidates to publicly pledge commitment to the offshore islands and to the fishing industry… but I haven’t heard a single other maritime organisation make any calls, nor speak out as strongly as John Nolan has done…. Is it any wonder then that successive governments got away with removing a dedicated marine department in an island nation and dividing the marine sphere into the responsibilities of six Departments… That was a divide and conquer policy motivated by civil service advice, I was told. It certainly removed a maritime focus at the Cabinet table.

But while politicians can generally be berated for their lack of maritime interest – the maritime sphere – all of it – perhaps needs to look at itself – and to speak out the maritime sector more loudly….

More on the podcast below.

Published in Tom MacSweeney
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In a unique opportunity to portray the intriguing maritime heritage of the Ards Peninsula and North Down in Northern Ireland, seven communities have produced a maritime history of each of their locations – Portaferry, Portavogie, Ballyhalbert and Cloughey on the Ards Peninsula and Donaghadee, Groomsport and Ballyholme on the North Down coast.

The project is supported by the EU’s PEACE IV Programme, managed by the SEUPB (Special EU Programmes Body). This is an initiative of the European Union which has been designed to support peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland and the Border Region of Ireland. It provides support to projects that contribute towards the promotion of greater levels of peace and reconciliation. The Programme also places a strong emphasis on promoting cross-community relations and understanding in order to create a more cohesive society.

Ards and North Down Borough Council was awarded £3.3M from the European Union’s PEACE IV Programme to deliver the PEACE IV Action Plan and a total of 19 projects are being rolled out across the Borough.

Portaferry PanelThe Portaferry panel

One of these projects involves a programme which engages communities across the Borough to explore jointly their shared maritime history and develop connections linked to what each community has in common thus creating more cohesive communities. The project will improve cross-community cohesion between groups, particularly in rural towns and villages by jointly exploring their shared history and heritage.

Each of the seven communities has produced a large display panel telling stories, illustrated with photographs, of important people, shipwrecks, businesses, tales of bravery and memorable history particular to each location. The aim is to make available this information in the form of a travelling exhibition, online material, touch screen access and eventually an App telling the same stories. The panels are the property of each community to be also used as they think fit.

Pulling this together is Copius Consulting, a Belfast based company who have facilitated the programme implementation as a delivery agent commissioned by Ards and North Down Borough Council Peace IV Programme.

Match-funding has been provided by the Executive Office in Northern Ireland and the Department of Rural and Community Development in Ireland.

Published in Historic Boats
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Hello and welcome to my weekly Podcast …. Tom MacSweeney here ….

The marine sector is about to be planned for the first time. This is the development of Ireland’s first national marine spatial plan, about which a public consultation process has been underway at a series of meetings around the country. A 108-page Baseline Report charts thinking at government level.

It lists sailing as the most popular marine sport in terms of “membership numbers” with over 19,000 members in 60 clubs and says Ireland is a world-class sailing destination. It also lists challenges to watersports – pressures from increased numbers engaged in watersports in environmentally sensitive areas, noise pollution from power boats and jet skis and the dangers of introducing non-native species into areas from recreational boats.

"It lists sailing as the most popular marine sport in terms of “membership numbers” with over 19,000 members in 60 clubs"

The introduction says: ““As an island nation with one of the largest marine areas in Europe, Ireland’s economy, culture and society are inextricably linked with the sea.”
Having pioneered the words “island nation” to create public awareness in the sea for many years, I like that! The aim is to bring the planning process from shore to sea, to create a national plan for Irish territorial waters for a 20-year period.

But public awareness of the drafting of a national plan is not as strong as it should be, in my view. The national media has not given it a lot of attention, compared to planning on land. No surprise there as not a single national newspaper gives dedicated space to marine matters.

I chaired last Friday’s consultation meeting in Cork, which had an attendance of about 120 from a wide sphere of marine interests. Chairing a question-and-answer session with a panel that included those who will be drafting the final plan and its objectives, it became clear that there is a lot of frustration amongst maritime groups about marine planning for the maritime sector and that so many aspects of it are spread across several government departments, which divides and lessens its impact at governmental level.

It’s six years since the Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth was launched, so it’s taken some time to start work on this planning process. I wanted to know why the Department of the Marine was not leading the process and interviewed Philip Nugent for this week’s Podcast. I asked him to explain exactly what it is.

Submissions about the plan can be made until noon on Friday, December 14 by Email to: [email protected] or by writing to: MSP Submissions, Marine Spatial Planning Section, Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, Newtown Road, Wexford Y35 AP90. The Baseline Report is publicly available.

Published in Tom MacSweeney
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I am not a convinced believer in Government marine policy. Though I accept there have been improvements in the State attitude towards the maritime sphere in recent years, there is still a big defect – marine policy is not a high priority with the Government.

Because of that, there is no dedicated Department of the Marine, in an island nation that is 95 per cent dependent on the sea for everything moved into and from this country.

Successive governments have never given the maritime sphere high priority and that continues today. They have not appreciated the economic value of the marine, an unforgivable blindness in a nation that is the most western of the European Union. So the economic value of our rich fishing waters has been reaped, not by Ireland, but by other European nations, in several of which Irish holidaymakers this Summer will eat fish which they will be unaware has come from their home waters, where Irish boats are reduced to minimal catches compared with foreign vessels – and that because of Irish Government failure. It is only in current years that the value of marine tourism has been realised and that, not because of Government but through the pressure of independent operators.

"There is no dedicated Department of the Marine, in an island nation that is 95 per cent dependent on the sea for everything moved into and from this country"

So this week I was pretty disgusted when the Government ignored the United Nations request to honour the ‘World Day of the Seafarer,’ honouring the “vital importance to the world’s population and its economic well-being, of the role of seafarers in our lives.” The International Maritime Organisation, the maritime agency of the UN, asked every nation to mark the ‘Day of the Seafarer.’ Ireland is one of the nations which are members of the IMO, but did nothing. This island nation, which depends on 95 per cent of its exports and imports on shipping, ignored the role of the seafarer. To those of us who have long experience of government marine policy, no surprise there.


SEAFEST & OCEAN WEALTH

But it came also at the start of a week which will end with Seafest in Galway, the annual official State event which declares that “Ireland’s multi-billion Euro marine economy is the focus of ocean wealth. 

Quite a contradiction in Governmental approach there, but I agree with Marine Institute CEO Peter Heffernan when he says that “Ireland’s oceans represent enormous commercial opportunities.”

The Summit is an output of Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth, the Government’s integrated plan for Ireland’s marine sector, ‘Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth,’ which aims to double the value of the marine economy’s contribution to GDP by 2030.

While marine research has increased exponentially, I remain questioning of Government commitment, such as to the future of the Naval Service at its island base in Cork Harbour where Haulbowline Island has been a naval centre since the 1600s. This is now to be reviewed and that is to suit commercial pressure. The Indaver company wants to build a hazardous waste incinerator at the doorstep of the base, the only road into and from the island. It has planning approval, despite objections by the Department of Defence, which told a planning enquiry that it would have an “unacceptable impact “on Naval operations damaging to the national strategic defence.”

Amazingly, Bord Pleanala’s Inspector said it wouldn’t…. so appearing to know more about Naval operations than the Navy themselves….. Even though he rejected the proposed incinerator on other grounds, the board of Bord Pleanala over-ruled him and cited his comment on the Navy as one of the reasons…..

So now, it seems, civilians can make national maritime defence policy...

Defence Junior Minister Paul Kehoe, the Taoiseach is the senior man, has told his Department to review the impact of the incinerator on Naval policy, but they’ve already made their view known… so what is going on here….?

As the great maritime commentator, Dr.John De Courcy Ireland said: “The ruling politicians of this country turned their backs to the sea.”

NAVAL SHIPS TO BE BASED IN DUN LAOGHAIRE & KILLYBEGS?

I have been told this week that Killybegs in Donegal and Dun Laoghaire, a harbour now without ferry services on the Dublin coastline and in need of business, will be considered as alternative locations to base Naval vessels.

What does all this mean for the future of the Haulbowline Naval Base?

There is widespread opposition throughout Cork Harbour communities, larger than anything seen before, against Indaver and its incinerator and demands have been made for investigations into Bord Pleanala

The George Bernard Shaw, 4th Offshore Patrol Vessel to be built in recent years for the Navy is alongside Newquay Dock in Appledore, Devon at present, where fitting-out is underway with sea trials due next month. A 76mm gun is to be fitted and it is planned to formally name and commission her into the Naval Service later this year. By then, perhaps we will know future plans for the Haulbowline Naval Base.

Anyway, the other positive maritime event this week is the start of the Round Ireland Race from Wicklow on Saturday afternoon…. And that doesn’t depend upon Government maritime policy.

Listen to my Podcast here

Published in Tom MacSweeney
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The President of the Maritime Institute which runs the National Maritime Museum at Dun Laoghaire has said that “there are more reasons than ever to be positive about maritime heritage.”

Richard McCormick cites the 200-year-celebration of “Dun Laoghaire Harbour’s proud maritime tradition,” the Port Trail Initiative by Dublin Port, the commemoration of the SS Hare and SS Adelia by the erection of memorial plaques which “showed that the close-knit communities of Dublin’s docklands commendably have not forgotten their heritage” and the ‘Friend and Foe 1917 Maritime Heritage Weekend’ held in Dunmore East, Co.Waterford, as examples.

He refers to these and others in his President’s Address published in the Autumn edition of the Institute’s Newsletter, prior to the annual general meeting of the Institute which will be held next weekend. He outlines the progress made at the Museum in developing its facilities and praises the staff and volunteers for “magnificent work in keeping the Museum open seven days a week, offering an interesting and attractive environment for visitors to explore Ireland’s rich maritime heritage.”

Published in News Update
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In partnership with four other EU local authority areas Clare County Council has received European Union (EU) funding totalling €388,000 to increase participation in maritime activities and to encourage young people across Clare to consider maritime related careers.

The Local Authority’s Social Development Directorate, through its remit to increase overall participation levels in sport and physical activity in Clare, has been awarded the EU Erasmus+ programme funding as part of the ‘Atlantic Youth Project’.

“As the only Irish partner in the European-wide project, Clare County Council is tasked with encouraging and developing the maritime culture of young Europeans, through the practise of water sports and maritime education at school,” explained Tim Forde, Head of Sport & Recreation, Clare County Council.

He continued, “Over the three-year term of this project, the Local Authority will facilitate the involvement of a significant number of second level school children with opportunities to participate in water sports in our county whilst also participating in organised maritime education opportunities that will be EU-funded.”

Mr. Forde and Liam Conneally, Director of Social Development, Clare County Council, represented the Local Authority at the project launch and inaugural meeting of the participating partners which was held recently in Viana do Castelo, Portugal, home to the Lead Partner, Cim Alto Minho.

Mr. Conneally noted that Clare had been selected to participate in the ‘Atlantic Youth Project’ due to its “ready access to sea and river waters surrounding the County, maritime heritage, existing maritime infrastructure for hosting project activities, and Clare County Council’s lengthy track record of delivering education outreach programmes.”

“With partners in Spain, Portugal, France, UK and Ireland (Clare County Council), the Atlantic Youth Project will also contribute to the implementation of the EU’s Atlantic Maritime Strategy, through the development of a maritime culture among young people which in turn will encourage the upcoming generation to consider maritime sport, recreation and industry as a career path,” he added.

Over the coming months Clare County Council will be working with sporting and educational stakeholders across the County and will confirm details of the rollout of the ‘Atlantic Youth Project’ in County Clare in early 2018.

Published in Youth Sailing
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This beautifully illustrated book explores the history of the fishery piers and harbours of Galway and North Clare. A testament to these structures as feats of engineering, it is also a riveting account of the human aspect that shadowed their construction; a beautiful rendering of the maritime activities that gave life to the Wild Atlantic Way – kelp-making, fishing, turf distribution, and sea-borne trade.

Humble Works for Humble People nurtures the retelling of human stories surrounding the piers, giving voice to the unacknowledged legacy of the lives that were their making. Foreign financial support, humanitarian efforts, controversies and conflict – these are all features of the piers and harbours’ development and preservation. Humble Works for Humble People is a vital contribution to the maritime history of Galway, Clare and of Ireland in general; an overlooked but culturally rich facet of Irish history.

Buy the book online from Afloat.ie's Marine Market here.

Published in Book Review
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Dingle today is closely associated with superb hospitality, good food, the sporting entertainment of the biennial Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race, and the eternal sense of the nearby presence of the mighty Atlantic in one direction, and majestic mountains soaring to the peak of Mount Brandon in the other. Thus it is easy to overlook the fact that this remote yet spirited and independent port has a long history of interacting with the sea for fishing, international trade, and other intriguing activities writes W M Nixon.

The annual Dingle Maritime Weekend in the October Bank Holiday Weekend has been running for six years now to increase awareness of Dingle’s often colourful maritime past. It was established by Kevin Flannery of Dingle Oceanworld and former Harbour Master Captain Brian Farrell (whose tour of duty did so much to bring the harbour to its present healthy state), and the idea is to exlore aspects of that rich heritage, and how it relates to Dingle’s fascinating maritime environment today.

 

dingle poster final2

It’s held at the Oceanworld Aquarium and admission is free for three special talks spread in civilized style between the Saturday afternoon and early Sunday afternoon. Thus it’s a user-friendly format which means you can combine the usual multi-activity Dingle holiday weekend with some digestible maritime information. But of course with the varied audience which it usually attracts, all sorts of post-presentation conversations can happily arise. 

Dingle Maritime Weekend Programme, 28th and 29th October 2017 at Oceanworld Aquarium

SATURDAY 28th OCTOBER 14:00hrs

'The coast of Kerry in the 16th and 17th centuries: trade, ships, piracy and plunder.'
by Dr Connie Kelleher

The talk will draw on sources such as the High Court of Admiralty Papers, State Papers and other contemporary sources to illustrate episodes when the expansion of maritime empires meant that the diversity of goods traded encouraged smuggling, piracy and corruption. It will show that harbours like Dingle, Ventry and Valentia, rather than being remote, formed part of a network central to this global development in commercial shipping, colonial enlargement and associated growth in opportunistic plunder.

DR CONNIE HELLEHER is a member of the State Underwater Archeology Unit in the National Monuments Service Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. Connie is a graduate of UCC with an MA in maritime archaeology and a PhD from Trinity College Dublin on the history and archaeology of piracy in Irish waters in the early 17th century. As a commercially trained diver, her work with the NMS is broad and focuses on the protection of Ireland's underwater cultural heritage. She is visiting lecturer in underwater archaeology in the Archaeology Dept UCC and is a Board member of the international advisory council on underwater archaeology. With several papers and chapters published on piracy in Irish waters, she is currently putting the final edit to her book: “Ireland's Golden Age of Piracy”.

SATURDAY 15:30 hrs
Irish Antarctic Expedition.

PADDY BARRY will give an illustrated talk on the Irish Antarctic Expedition which followed the survival route of Shackleton & Tom Crean by sea in a small boat and then over the mountains of South Georgia.

tom crean3The national hero from the Dingle Peninsula – Tom Crean in the Antarctic.

Tom Crean came from Annascaul on the Tralee to Dingle road, and is one of the Dingle Peninsula’s most internationally-noted historic figures (another is film star Gregory Peck).

Paddy Barry is a Civil Engineer, now retired, who has, during his working life, taken many 'career breaks' to sail to out of the way places, while at the same time somehow maintaining domestic relations on the home front. He lives in Monkstown, Dublin and has worked, apart from Ireland, in the UK, the USA, Malawi and Ethiopia. His first 'big' trip was to America, in the Galway Hooker ' Saint Patrick', followed in the same boat by journeys to Spitsbergen and later to North West Greenland.

paddy barry4High latitudes voyager and explorer Paddy Barry will celebrate the Dingle Peninsula’s links to Tom Crean

In a very much smaller boat he was Skipper of the Irish Antarctic team which followed in the wake of Shackleton's small boat journey. In 2001 he was Expedition Leader of the team who traversed the North West Passage in the vessel 'Northabout'.

Paddy in his sailing boat Ar Seachrán escorted Camino Thar Sáile on its first year of voyaging across the Irish Sea and the Channel to Europe.

Paddy’s talk will be followed by the Kerry Launch of his newly published autobiography, “So Far, So Good – An Adventurous Life”. Available to purchase here.

SUNDAY 29th October 12:30hrs

Smuggling in Dingle in the Eighteenth Century
Speaker Dr Conor Brosnan

DR CONOR BROSNAN will discuss smuggling in Dingle in the eighteenth century. He will explore the reasons, sources, methods and people involved in what was known as Free Trade. He will talk on the methods the authorities used to suppress smuggling and the legacy it left.

Dr Conor Brosnan is a local GP and a member of Dingle Historical Society. He has a deep interest and knowledge of the Dingle area and its history.

Published in Maritime Festivals
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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

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