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Fenit RNLI Welcomes First Female Lifeboat Coxswain in Ireland

25th September 2020
Denise Lynch, Ireland's first RNLI lifeboat coxswain Denise Lynch, Ireland's first RNLI lifeboat coxswain

Denise Lynch, a volunteer lifeboat crewmember with Fenit RNLI in Kerry, has been passed out as an RNLI Coxswain. She is currently the only woman to hold the senior position on an operational lifeboat crew in Ireland and is the first woman to be appointed to the role in the country. Denise began as a volunteer in 2001 and has served on both Fenit RNLI’s inshore and all-weather lifeboats.

Denise became interested in lifeboats as a primary school student when her class visited the lifeboat station on a school trip. From a prominent fishing family in Fenit, as a child, she knew and looked up to the lifeboat Coxswain and decided that when she was old enough she would join the lifeboat crew. The middle of six children, Denise (37) is the only one of her family to serve on the lifeboat.

On her appointment, Denise said, ‘From the day I visited the station in primary school, I fell in love with lifeboats. I know my family and the lifeboat crew are proud of me and I feel incredibly honoured and ready for this new challenge. I have been a Helm on the inshore lifeboat and a navigator on the all-weather lifeboat for years. I think about how we are helping families whose loved ones are in trouble and it hits home how important the work of the RNLI is, along with that of our colleagues in the Coast Guard and other search and rescues agencies.’

While Denise is currently the only female Coxswain volunteering on operational lifeboat crew in Ireland, Helena Duggan, a staff Assessor Trainer with the RNLI, is also a Coxswain. There are currently 155 volunteer female lifeboat crew in Ireland. The charity is looking to recruit more volunteers for a variety of sea-going and station roles and Denise is keen to encourage others to follow in her footsteps.

Asked what advice she would have for other women who might be interested in becoming lifeboat crew, Denise is clear in her answer, ‘I’d say go for it. It’s no big deal to my male colleagues on the lifeboat crew that a woman is in this role, because they know me and they’ve been to sea with me in all weathers. The trust and respect are mutual between lifeboat crew. They know I can do the job and they know I’m there for them, whatever happens. If you’ve an interest, just give it a cut.’

‘The RNLI will provide the training and they’ll know if and when you’re ready to move into a different role. I want to thank everyone at Fenit RNLI for supporting me and the RNLI for giving me the opportunity. It’s very special to the be first but I hope there are many more to come. I hope it encourages more people to volunteer.’

Commenting on the appointment, Fenit RNLI Lifeboat Operations Manager Ger O’Donnell said, ‘ We are delighted to have a new Coxswain at Fenit. Denise is a great addition to our Coxswain team and has been a valuable member of the lifeboat crew for many years. We are lucky to have so many great volunteers at our station who fill a variety of roles, from fundraising to operations. We couldn’t function without them and they all play their part to save lives at sea.’

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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