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A former Doolin Coast Guard member has spoken publicly about why he says he was forced to quit the service after 31 years.

Experienced rock and sea cave climber Conor McGrath says that after his resignation in October of last year, five others also resigned.

He says it was through “sheer frustration” over Irish Coast Guard management inaction in relation to five key issues.

In an interview with The Clare Champion, McGrath says that while local management was supportive, national Irish Coast Guard management was “disruptive”.

“One of our team members Caitríona Lucas was killed in Kilkee, and there was the helicopter crash,” McGrath recalled, referring to Ms Lucas’s death in September 2016 and the Rescue 116 helicopter crash with the loss of four air crew off north Mayo in March 2017.

He says that as a result there was “a lot of oversight, and criticism of management”.

“I think they had a knee jerk reaction and decided if you do nothing there will not be a problem. I said this is not acceptable to me while I was volunteering my skills and my time,” McGrath told The Clare Champion.

“I quit and that started a snowball effect. I felt things were not working and management was disruptive. We spent the last six years complaining, I said I have enough, I am gone,”he said.

“The ability to train and respond was greatly reduced to such an extent I felt it wasn’t feasible to work in the unit. It is a huge loss to the community and people that the service we had is gone,” he said.

While volunteers are required to respond quickly to a call out, he said that one of the doors in the €1.9 million Doolin Coast Guard Station in north Clare “didn’t open for about three years”.

“The door on the right hand side of the building was cannibalised to get the other two working. It was like a game of chess to move boats and vehicles to get out of one door. If it was in a fire station, would they put up with it?,” he told the newspaper.

“We used to train in the station using steel beams for winter training, which was a great opportunity for people who don’t cave or climb to get themselves in and out of trouble in a controlled environment,” he explained.

“The Coast Guard Sector Manager for the West Coast, Olan O’Keeffe put fantastic systems in place, but once this was done head office said you are not to use this again. We were told there is no more training in the station. I was never told why,” he said.

“Volunteers were never consulted about what they would actually need in the new station, which was built and is run by the Office of Public Works. The Coast Guard lease it,” he explained.

He said that while the new station was “a massive improvement on the old Doolin shed”, some volunteers believe it was built in the wrong location.

“A boat and trailer is about 40 feet long. We have to get through buses and traffic to get the boat on to the slipway. It could have been sited at the head of the slipway where the boat would be ready to go,”he said.

“The entrance into it isn’t wide enough to get the boat out easily. You can’t turn in one direction. It is farcical,” he said, adding that “it is nearly impossible to get the boat from the road into the yard. The practicalities were never really looked at or discussed.”

He said the main building is open to the sea air, probably for ventilation purposes.

“It is like parking your vehicle out in the open. From a maintenance point of view, that is not a good idea,”he said.

“The eaves are mesh and the sea air circulates through the building. The inside steel structure was rusting before we even moved in. It had to addressed,”he told the newspaper.

Mr McGrath recalled the Coast Guard bought a fleet of 4WD transit vans, but found out they couldn’t take the required weight for people and climbing equipment.

“To cover it up, they have never used the vans. The vans have a humidity storage area in the back. You can put in all your wet equipment and it will dry it out,”he said.

“Because of this problem the vans are sitting empty and equipment is being stored in an open trailer in what is practically an open building,”he said.

“There are harnesses costing €300 or €400 with mildew that have never been used because they are sitting in an open trailer in an open building while the van is empty,”he said.

Read more in The Clare Champion here

Asked to comment on claims in The Clare Champion interview, a spokesman for the Department of Transport said: “Coast Guard management have worked with Doolin Coast Guard Unit members over the past number of years following the unfortunate breakdown in interpersonal relationships that had occurred”.

“At the end of 2021, the Mulvey report on Doolin was completed, which made a number of recommendations which have been implemented. These include providing the existing Volunteer Coastal Unit Advisory Group (CUAG) with an enhanced representative role for all volunteers,” the department spokesman said. 

“A dedicated HR support service to volunteers has also been provided, which is independent of Coast Guard management. Secretariat support to CUAG is also available and training in HR for volunteers and new members of CUAG is also underway,” the spokesman said.

“The Doolin unit has been reconstituted and continues to make good progress. The Mulvey report recommended that the reconstituted Doolin unit be allowed sufficient time to develop a culture of mutual respect and trust, and this process is ongoing,” the spokesman said.

“Coast Guard management is very committed to ongoing consultation and communication with all Coast Guard volunteers and CUAG. Minister Hildegarde Naughton has visited a number of Coast Guard units since the relaxation of Covid restrictions and visited the Doolin Coast Guard unit recently,” the department spokesman said.

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Hildegarde Naughton TD, Minister with special responsibility for the Irish Coast Guard has today joined volunteers in Ardmore to mark the reopening of the Coast Guard station. The Ardmore Coast Guard Unit has a long history in the provision of search and rescue and can trace its origins back to the 1890s.

The Ardmore unit today a drone capability as well as the search function and works closely with its flank stations – Bonmahon and Youghal. This is important due to the varying coastline in the area which includes beaches, rock shores and cliffs. Cliff rescue cover is also provided in the area with the Bonmahon unit equipped for cliff rescue. Their area of operations extends from Dungarvan to the east and extends west over towards Youghal. The team comprises 17 dedicated volunteers delivering the Coast Guard service in their community.

After extensive refurbishment work, the Minister’s visit marks the reopening of the Coast Guard building at Ardmore. The refurbishment work was completed by the Office of Public Works on behalf of the Irish Coast Guard and included window replacement, painting, flooring and external improvements to the yard. Work was also carried out on the original ‘rocket’ house for use in storage and training.

Minister Naughton’s visits coincide with the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the Irish Coast Guard this year. The Irish Coast Guard, which can trace its roots to 1822 includes 44 Coast Guard units across Ireland provide a national maritime search and rescue service and a maritime casualty and pollution response service. Volunteers and full-time staff respond to almost 3,000 call outs and save on average 400 lives a year.

Speaking from Ardmore, Minister Naughton said “The Irish Coast Guard is one of the State’s Principal Emergency Services and their work is both challenging and varied. I would like to acknowledge the commitment of staff and volunteers here in Ardmore, across the county of Waterford, and nationwide, for providing this crucial service and particularly for maintaining service delivery throughout the Covid pandemic. I continue to hear stories of volunteers leaving their families at home in the dead of night, and even on Christmas Day, to assist those in difficulty; a fact that demonstrates the personal sacrifice that is made by our volunteers 365 days of the year. Without our volunteers we simply would not have this lifesaving service. I would also like to thank their families and the wider community without whose support this service could not be provided.”

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Minister with special responsibility for the Irish Coast Guard Hildegarde Naughton TD, today visited Doolin Coast Guard Unit in County Clare to meet with the local volunteer team and hear first-hand about their life saving work.

Doolin Coast Guard Unit consists of 7 volunteers and 8 more in Inis Óirr. The Unit carries out search, boat and drone roles. In 2021, a total of 41 incident taskings were responded to, and a further 49 so far in 2022. Following the recent appointments of Officer in Charge and Deputy Officer in Charge the unit continues to work on its core competencies. The skills and dedication of the volunteers who staff the Doolin Coast Guard unit have proven extremely important in the delivery of the Irish Coast Guard mission statement – both locally within their community and in support of the national service. Further expansion of the unit will be undertaken to continue to provide an effective maritime search and rescue service in County Clare.

Minister Naughton’s visits coincide with the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the Irish Coast Guard this year. The Irish Coast Guard, which can trace its roots to 1822 includes 44 Coast Guard units across Ireland provide a national maritime search and rescue service and a maritime casualty and pollution response service. Volunteers and full-time staff respond to almost 3,000 call outs and save on average 400 lives a year.

Speaking from Doolin, Minister Naughton said “The Irish Coast Guard is one of the State’s Principal Emergency Services and their work is both challenging and varied. I would like to acknowledge the commitment of staff and volunteers here in Clare, and nationwide, for providing this crucial service and particularly for maintaining service delivery throughout the Covid pandemic. I continue to hear stories of volunteers leaving their families at home in the dead of night, and even on Christmas Day, to assist those in difficulty; a fact that demonstrates the personal sacrifice that is made by our volunteers 365 days of the year. Without our volunteers we simply would not have this lifesaving service. I would also like to thank their families and the wider community without whose support this service could not be provided.”

The Irish Coast Guard is one of the State’s Principal Emergency Services and their work is both challenging and varied. I would like to acknowledge the commitment of staff and volunteers in Galway, and nationwide, for providing this crucial service and particularly for maintaining service delivery throughout the Covid pandemic. I continue to hear stories of volunteers leaving their families at home at the dead of night, or on Christmas Day, to assist a person in difficulty; a fact that demonstrates the personal sacrifice that is made by our volunteers 365 days of the year. Without our volunteers we simply would not have this lifesaving service.”

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Crosshaven Coastguard has installed a new drive-up pontoon for its RIB rescue boat in Cork Harbour

The floating pontoon, that has been installed at the Royal Cork Yacht Club marina gives the local Coastguard unit a much safer and quicker response time.

The Coastguard says on social media that the pontoon will save launch time and the dangers of crossing a busy main road because 'the boat is already on the water but not in the water!" 

Crosshaven Coastguard's new new drive-up pontoon berth for its rescue RIBCrosshaven Coastguard's new new drive-up pontoon berth for its rescue RIB Photo: Bob Bateman

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Galway based Minister with special responsibility for the Irish Coast Guard, Hildegarde Naughton TD, today visited Cleggan Coast Guard Unit to meet with the local volunteer team and hear first-hand about their life saving work.

Cleggan is a shore-based Coast Guard Unit with 17 volunteers and has dual functions with shore search and drone roles. The team at Cleggan was the first in the country to be trained and equipped with drone capabilities. Work continues within the team to keep on top of advancing drone technologies. The Cleggan Unit has also led the way for Units nationwide to respond to a wide range of challenging and life-threatening incidents, including searches for missing persons with the use of drones.

Minister Naughton’s visit coincides with the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the Irish Coast Guard this year. The Irish Coast Guard, which can trace its roots back to 1822, includes 44 Coast Guard units across Ireland that provide a national maritime search and rescue service and a maritime casualty and pollution response service. Volunteers and full-time staff respond to almost 3,000 callouts and save on average, 400 lives a year.

Minister Naughton commented on this important milestone: “I had the pleasure of presenting the 30-year Long Service Medal to Michael Murray, the Officer in Charge at Cleggan, in September at the celebration event of the 200th anniversary of the Coast Guard. Michael’s exemplary service is an example of the dedication and commitment of all in our Coast Guard to protect people along our coastline and inland waters.

“The Irish Coast Guard is one of the State’s Principal Emergency Services, and their work is both challenging and varied. I would like to acknowledge the commitment of staff and volunteers here in Galway, and nationwide for providing this crucial service and particularly for maintaining service delivery throughout the Covid pandemic. I continue to hear stories of volunteers leaving their families at home in the dead of night, and even on Christmas Day, to assist those in difficulty, a fact that demonstrates the personal sacrifice that is made by our volunteers 365 days of the year. Without our volunteers, we simply would not have this lifesaving service. I would also like to thank their families and the wider community, without whose support this service could not be provided."

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Two junior ministers have turned a sod on the construction site of a new Coast Guard station at Bunmahon, Co Waterford.

A sum of 5.3 million euro is being invested in the new station, according to Minister of State with responsibility for the Irish Coast Guard Hildegarde Naughton.

She was joined by Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works (OPW), Patrick O’Donovan.

It will take about a year to complete.

The new station will provide better facilities for the 18 volunteers who operate from the Bunmahon unit, including vehicle storage, shower and changing facilities, an operations/training room, kitchen and office space.The new station will provide better facilities for the 18 volunteers who operate from the Bunmahon unit, including vehicle storage, shower and changing facilities, an operations/training room, kitchen and office space

Ms Naughton paid tribute to the commitment and dedication of almost 1,000 volunteers with the Coast Guard, which she described second to none.

She also paid tribute to the members of the Bunmahon unit and said it was a key resource for the Irish Coast Guard in the Waterford area.

“The unit has shoreline and cliff rescue capabilities and works closely with its flank units at Ardmore and Tramore,” she said.

Minister Naughton said the Bunmahon unit and said it was a key resource for the Irish Coast Guard in the Waterford areaMinister Naughton said the Bunmahon unit and said it was a key resource for the Irish Coast Guard in the Waterford area

“The Waterford team here has responded to many search and cliff rescue emergencies down through the years, both maritime and inland, in rural communities and in the larger townlands of Tramore and Dungarvan,”she said, noting the unit had also assisted the Garda Siochana, National Ambulance Service and Fire Service.

“The OPW is delighted to assist in the design and construction of this new purpose-built premises in Bunmahon for the Irish Coast Guard Service,” Mr O’Donovan said.

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The Irish Coast Guard Maritime Rescue Sub Centre (MRSC) at Malin Head has reported the safe rescue of the trapped man from the cave at Downpatrick Head Co Mayo.

The man has been transferred to Sligo University Hospital by the Coast Guard Helicopter Rescue 118 from Sligo and is said to be well and in good spirits.

As Afloat reported earlier, a multi-agency rescue operation had been awaiting low tide this afternoon (Sunday 18 September) to retrieve the man trapped in a sea cave at Downpatrick Head since the previous evening.

Rescuers work to retrieve a man trapped in a cave at Downpatrick in County MayoRescuers work to retrieve a man trapped in a cave at Downpatrick in County Mayo

According to The Irish Times, the man in his 40s had been exploring the cave with a woman on Saturday (17 September) when they became trapped by the rising tide and were swept off a ledge by a wave surge.

The Irish Cave Rescue Organisation rescued the individual, supported by the Coast Guard Units from Killala/Ballyglass/Killybegs/Achill, the Ballyglass RNLI Lifeboat, National Ambulance Service, Civil Defence, County Fire Service and An Gardai Siochana, including the Gardai Water Unit. With a particular mention of the support of the local community at Downpatrick and North Mayo more generally.

The individual has been transferred to Sligo University Hospital by the Coast Guard Helicopter Rescue 118 from Sligo and is said to be well and in good spirits.The individual has been transferred to Sligo University Hospital by the Coast Guard Helicopter Rescue 118 from Sligo and is said to be well and in good spirits

In a statement, the Coast Guard said tonight it would like to take this opportunity to recognise the professionalism and dedication of those involved in the successful operation and in particular, the team from the Irish Cave Rescue Organisation.

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The Irish Coast Guard, which can trace its roots to 1822, is celebrating 200 years of lifesaving service. The milestone was marked at an event today attended by Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan TD and Minister of State with specific responsibility for the Irish Coast Guard, Hildegarde Naughton TD, at Greenore Coast Guard Station, County Louth. A special Commemorative Proof of Service Wreck Token will be awarded to 950 volunteers nationwide in recognition of their valued service.

Staff and volunteers from 44 Coast Guard units across Ireland provide a national maritime search and rescue service and a maritime casualty and pollution response service. Together, they respond to almost 3,000 call outs and save on average 400 lives a year. Of the call outs, approximately half are maritime incidents, a quarter are inland search and rescue and another quarter involve assisting the National Ambulance Service.

Today the Irish Coast Guard uses state of the art technology to support its work. However, over the decades, its volunteers have had to rely on horse drawn carriages to carry equipment, climbing cliffs on ladders and line-firing rockets to reach grounded vessels, for example, in their rescue efforts. The 200th anniversary is an opportunity to reflect on the legacy and rich history of this crucial rescue service.

Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan TD and Minister of State Hildegarde Naughton with specific responsibility for the Irish Coast Guard in Carlingford as they mark 200 years of the Lifesaving service with a Coastguard Helicopter flypastMinister for Transport Eamon Ryan TD and Minister of State Hildegarde Naughton with specific responsibility for the Irish Coast Guard as they mark 200 years of the Lifesaving service with a Coastguard Helicopter flypast at at Greenore Coast Guard Station on Carlingford Lough

Modern volunteer Coast Guard units provide a combination of Rescue Boat, Cliff Rescue, Shoreline Search Capabilities, and Emergency Community Support in conjunction with the other emergency services. Development in the use of Small Unmanned Aircraft systems (Drones) provide Coast Guard units with an enhanced search capability while Coast Guard helicopters provide 24/7 services out of four bases (Dublin, Waterford, Shannon, Sligo).

Minister for Transport, Eamon Ryan TD said: “The Irish Coast Guard Service has always been, and remains, a critical part of Ireland’s emergency response system. Last year, the Coast Guard reported a 12% increase in the overall number of incidents coordinated during 2021. Hardly a day goes by without hearing of the extraordinary work carried out bravely and selflessly by its staff and volunteers. Whether it’s the rescue of someone from the sea, a cliff or mountain rescue, the provision of maritime safety broadcasts, ship casualty operations or the investigation of pollution reports, they provide a 24/7 service for, and on behalf of, the Irish people.

Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan TD as he meets with Kevin Doherty along with members of the Greenore Coast Guard Station, County Louth from left Owen Connolly , Denise Fegan and Eddie Marmion as they mark 200 years of the Lifesaving serviceMinister for Transport Eamon Ryan TD as he meets with Kevin Doherty along with members of the Greenore Coast Guard Station, County Louth from left Owen Connolly , Denise Fegan and Eddie Marmion as they mark 200 years of the Lifesaving service

I am delighted to mark this 200-year celebration and to reflect on its rich history by recognising the tireless work of Irish Coast Guard staff and volunteers - both those currently in duty and those who have served before them, and their families right across the country.”

Minister of State Hildegarde Naughton TD said: “The Irish Coast Guard is one of the State’s Principal Emergency Services and their work is both challenging and varied. I would like to acknowledge the commitment of staff and volunteers for providing this crucial service and particularly for maintaining service delivery throughout the Covid pandemic. This week I am continuing my visits to our coast guard units across the country. The dedication and commitment towards protecting people along our coastline and inland waters is palpable to say the least. I continue to hear stories of volunteers leaving their families at home at the dead of night, or on Christmas Day, to assist a person in difficulty; a fact that demonstrates the personal sacrifice that is made by our volunteers 365 days of the year. Without our volunteers we simply would not have this lifesaving service.

I am also pleased to announce the publication earlier this week of the second annual report on the National Search and Rescue Plan, submitted by the National Search and Rescue (SAR) Committee. The Report shows a lot of evidence of inter-agency co-operation which is made possible by the close bonds forged locally between the services and inter-agency training and exercising.”

About the Irish Coast Guard

The Coast Guard’s role is to provide maritime search and rescue, maritime casualty, and pollution response service. The Coast Guard is a Division within the Irish Maritime Directorate (IMD) of the Department of Transport.

History of the Irish Coast Guard

The Irish Coast, which can trace its roots to 1822 after the passing of the Coast Guard Act in London. Initially, the Coast Guard took on revenue protection and coastal defence duties and acted as a reserve force for the Royal Navy. By 1860, there were approximately 200 Coast Guard stations around the country however, many of these were attacked and destroyed during the War of Independence and Civil War. After the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1921, the Coast Guard along with its 109 remaining stations were handed to the Irish Free State and remained as the Coast Life Saving Service (CLSS).

In 1990, the Irish Marine Emergency Service (IMES) was established and in February 2000, this became ‘Garda Costa na hÉireann’ or ‘Irish Coast Guard’ (IRCG).

Commemorative Proof of Service Wreck Token

The Commemorative Proof of Service wreck token is based on original Proof of Service wreck tokens which were issued to all Coast Guard stations since 1822. When the Coast Guard members or members of the public attended to a rescue, the Officer in Charge would give all who attended the rescue a Proof of Service wreck token. Anyone who was issued with a token would then hand it back to the Inspector when he next visited the Coast Guard station as proof of his/her attendance at a rescue. He/she would then be paid the appropriate amount in exchange for the token.

These Proof of Service wreck tokens were maintained at each Coast Guard station. Two types were cast over the 200-year period and while both had a clipper on one side, the British version (1822-1922) had the Crown on the other side while the Irish version (post 1922) had the harp. Very few of these original Proof of Service wreck tokens have survived however they are an important part of the 200-year history of our Coast Guard service on this island.

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The Mayo offshore island of Inishturk is to secure a new helipad for use by Irish Coast Guard air-sea rescue helicopters.

Funding of over €357,000 for the construction of the helipad has been approved by Minister for Rural and Community Development Heather Humphreys.

She says the Department of Rural and Community Development investment will “provide a vital resource for the Irish Coastguard to access the island in an emergency”.

Inishturk lies in outer Clew Bay, some nine miles or about 15km off the Mayo coast between Inishbofin and Clare Island.

It has a population of between 51 and 60 people, and made international headlines in 2016 when it was reported to have offered a refuge to US citizens who did not vote for Donald Trump as president.

Former island development officer Mary Catherine Heanue subsequently said she never actually issued the appeal to north Americans, which was attributed to her in news reports, but said the response on social media did benefit the island’s tourism.

"We would never actually turn anyone away, not even Mr Trump," Ms Heanue, who runs Ocean View guesthouse with her husband Bill, said at the time.

The island has a mixed fishing and farming economy and daily ferry crossings from Roonagh, Co Mayo.

Ms Humphreys said the funding she had approved would cover up to 90% of the cost of the helipad project, with Mayo County Council providing the balance.

She announced an air service contract worth €4.9 million for the Aran islands and over €2 million in funding for road projects on the islands off Donegal.

“This helipad will be a vital resource to the Irish Coastguard, providing them with a safe place to land on the island itself,” she said.

“Making our islands more sustainable is a key priority of mine as minister,” she said.

“I have no doubt that this particular funding will come as welcome news for Inishturk, and I want to also commend the Irish Coast Guard for the vital work they do,”she said.

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Valentia Coast Guard Station is reported to have been offline for up to 12 hours on Sunday night last due to staffing issues. The Department of Transport says the responsibilities at the time were shared between Malin Head and Dublin centres and that this arrangement had been pre-planned due to staff availability issues.

The matter has been raised by Fianna Fail West Cork TD., Christopher O’Sullivan, who said that all Coast Guard stations should be fully staffed and he was seeking to have the matter looked into.

There are understood to be vacancies for Watch Officers at all three Coast Guard stations. Six are said to have been recruited and more will be advertised.

THE ECHO Cork has more on the story today here, reporting that there are understood to be vacancies for Watch Officers at all three Coast Guard stations. Six are said to have been recruited and more will be advertised.

It also reports that staff members at Valentia have been covering extra shifts because of the shortage of personnel.

THE ECHO Cork leads on the Valentia Coastguard staffing storyTHE ECHO Cork leads on the Valentia Coastguard staffing story

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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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