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Castletownbere RNLI Presented with National Marine Gallantry and Meritorious Service Award

18th October 2016
Castletownbere RNLI was represented at the awards by Lifeboat Operations Manager Tony O’Sullivan, Coxswain Brian O’Driscoll and crew members John Paul Downey and Kyle Cronin. Castletownbere RNLI was represented at the awards by Lifeboat Operations Manager Tony O’Sullivan, Coxswain Brian O’Driscoll and crew members John Paul Downey and Kyle Cronin.

The volunteer lifeboat crew from Castletownbere RNLI has been awarded a Marine Ministerial Letter of Appreciation for Meritorious Service. 

The award in recognition of the crew’s ability to locate and save a life in challenging weather conditions was presented by the Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport Shane Ross, T.D. at the National Marine Gallantry and Meritorious Service Awards 2016 at a ceremony in Farmleigh House in the Phoenix Park on Friday evening (14 October).

Castletownbere RNLI was represented at the awards by Lifeboat Operations Manager Tony O’Sullivan, Coxswain Brian O’Driscoll and crew members John Paul Downey and Kyle Cronin.

The call out for which the lifeboat was awarded happened when the Castletownbere lifeboat, Annette Hutton, was launched early on Saturday morning 20 August. After 12 hours at sea in storm force conditions, the volunteer lifeboat crew rescued a lone sailor.

Valentia Coast Guard Radio had requested assistance to a yacht in difficulties 45 miles south of Mizen head in West Cork. The resceu was reported at the time by Afloat.ie here.

The eight-metre yacht, with one person on board, had left the Azores in early August and ran into difficulties the day previous. The sailor, in his sixties, had been in regular radio contact with Valentia Coast Guard radio until the morning when his VHF radio was washed overboard. He activated an EPIRB to identify his location, raise the alarm and seek help.

The lifeboat, under the command of Coxswain Brian O’Driscoll, was launched at 8am and located the casualty at 10.40am 50 miles south-west of Castletownbere. The Irish Coast Guard helicopter was also on scene.

Conditions were described as gusting Force 8/9 winds with a 30 foot swell. The yacht was taken under tow and the lifeboat proceeded slowly to Castletownbere in challenging sea conditions. Early into the tow lifeboat crew became concerned about the wellbeing of the sailor and crew managed to transfer him to the lifeboat. The lifeboat, with the damaged yacht in tow, returned to Castletownbere at 8.30pm having been at sea for 12 and a half hours.

Later that evening the sailor thanked the Castletownbere lifeboat and all involved for ‘saving his life’. He said: ‘only for the lifeboat, things would have ended up very badly today’.

The Castletownbere Coxswain and crew demonstrated skill, seamanship and endurance during what was a long and challenging day.
Speaking at the awards ceremony, Minister Ross praised the ‘courageous achievements and service of this group of brave Irish men and women who have faced crises and dug deep, offering their skills and in many cases placing themselves in danger in order that others might be safe on our waterways’.
Pausing to remember those who lost their lives at sea since the last set of Awards in 2014, Minister Ross spoke of the tragic death of volunteer Coast Guard Caitríona Lucas last month, describing her as ‘a courageous and heroic woman who made the ultimate sacrifice while in the service of others’.

The awards are to recognise outstanding acts of courage, heroism, skill and initiative in the context of marine emergency incidents. The scheme also recognises exceptional dedication to duty in the execution of Ireland’s marine emergency response.

A Marine Ministerial Letter of Appreciation may be awarded for meritorious service where outstanding dedication to duty over a career of service can be demonstrated, or for an act of particular meritorious dedication, showing skill and initiative, but which is not of an order for receipt of a Meritorious Service or Marine Gallantry medal.

The volunteer lifeboat crew from Kinsale RNLI and Lough Swilly RNLI in County Donegal were also awarded a Marine Ministerial Letter of Appreciation.

The National Marine Gallantry and Meritorious Service Awards Committee is chaired by Bryan Dobson of RTÉ.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

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Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI) in Ireland Information

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) is a charity to save lives at sea in the waters of UK and Ireland. Funded principally by legacies and donations, the RNLI operates a fleet of lifeboats, crewed by volunteers, based at a range of coastal and inland waters stations. Working closely with UK and Ireland Coastguards, RNLI crews are available to launch at short notice to assist people and vessels in difficulties.

RNLI was founded in 1824 and is based in Poole, Dorset. The organisation raised €210m in funds in 2019, spending €200m on lifesaving activities and water safety education. RNLI also provides a beach lifeguard service in the UK and has recently developed an International drowning prevention strategy, partnering with other organisations and governments to make drowning prevention a global priority.

Irish Lifeboat Stations

There are 46 lifeboat stations on the island of Ireland, with an operational base in Swords, Co Dublin. Irish RNLI crews are tasked through a paging system instigated by the Irish Coast Guard which can task a range of rescue resources depending on the nature of the emergency.

Famous Irish Lifeboat Rescues

Irish Lifeboats have participated in many rescues, perhaps the most famous of which was the rescue of the crew of the Daunt Rock lightship off Cork Harbour by the Ballycotton lifeboat in 1936. Spending almost 50 hours at sea, the lifeboat stood by the drifting lightship until the proximity to the Daunt Rock forced the coxswain to get alongside and successfully rescue the lightship's crew.

32 Irish lifeboat crew have been lost in rescue missions, including the 15 crew of the Kingstown (now Dun Laoghaire) lifeboat which capsized while attempting to rescue the crew of the SS Palme on Christmas Eve 1895.

FAQs

While the number of callouts to lifeboat stations varies from year to year, Howth Lifeboat station has aggregated more 'shouts' in recent years than other stations, averaging just over 60 a year.

Stations with an offshore lifeboat have a full-time mechanic, while some have a full-time coxswain. However, most lifeboat crews are volunteers.

There are 46 lifeboat stations on the island of Ireland

32 Irish lifeboat crew have been lost in rescue missions, including the 15 crew of the Kingstown (now Dun Laoghaire) lifeboat which capsized while attempting to rescue the crew of the SS Palme on Christmas Eve 1895

In 2019, 8,941 lifeboat launches saved 342 lives across the RNLI fleet.

The Irish fleet is a mixture of inshore and all-weather (offshore) craft. The offshore lifeboats, which range from 17m to 12m in length are either moored afloat, launched down a slipway or are towed into the sea on a trailer and launched. The inshore boats are either rigid or non-rigid inflatables.

The Irish Coast Guard in the Republic of Ireland or the UK Coastguard in Northern Ireland task lifeboats when an emergency call is received, through any of the recognised systems. These include 999/112 phone calls, Mayday/PanPan calls on VHF, a signal from an emergency position indicating radio beacon (EPIRB) or distress signals.

The Irish Coast Guard is the government agency responsible for the response to, and co-ordination of, maritime accidents which require search and rescue operations. To carry out their task the Coast Guard calls on their own resources – Coast Guard units manned by volunteers and contracted helicopters, as well as "declared resources" - RNLI lifeboats and crews. While lifeboats conduct the operation, the coordination is provided by the Coast Guard.

A lifeboat coxswain (pronounced cox'n) is the skipper or master of the lifeboat.

RNLI Lifeboat crews are required to follow a particular development plan that covers a pre-agreed range of skills necessary to complete particular tasks. These skills and tasks form part of the competence-based training that is delivered both locally and at the RNLI's Lifeboat College in Poole, Dorset

 

While the RNLI is dependent on donations and legacies for funding, they also need volunteer crew and fund-raisers.

© Afloat 2020

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