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Lough Foyle and River Liffey Rescues among National Bravery Awards

20th November 2022
Kevin Barr with on left Geraldine Mullen (the lady who he saved from Lough Foyle) and on right Ceann Comhairle Sean O'Fearghail T.D., who received a Gold medal at the Oireachtas National Bravery awards
Kevin Barr with on left Geraldine Mullen (the lady who he saved from Lough Foyle) and on right Ceann Comhairle Sean O'Fearghail T.D., who received a Gold medal at the Oireachtas National Bravery awards Credit: Maxwells

Several marine and river rescues merited national bravery awards presented at Farmleigh House in Dublin on Friday.

Greencastle Coast Guard unit member Kevin Barr was presented with a gold medal for rescuing Geraldine Mullan from Lough Foyle, Co Donegal, on August 20th, 2020 after the car in which she and her husband and two children were travelling skidded off the road into the water at Quigley’s Point.

Barr lived locally and was on the scene very quickly, observing Mullan at the bottom of the car, which had turned over and landed on its roof.

The citation says that “without any hesitation, Mr Barr made his way with the assistance of the fire service down to the vehicle and held onto her until the other emergency services arrived and helped get her to safety”.

“Tragically, her husband and two children had also been in the car and their bodies were later recovered. The lady who survived later thanked all those who had assisted on the night but paid particular tribute to Kevin Barr for his intervention,” the citation says.

Michael Downes was awarded a silver medal for rescuing a boy who fell out of his canoe near Oldhead beach, close to Louisburgh. The citation says the incident occurred in July 1974, when the boy had lost his paddle and was grabbing on to the side of the canoe.

“Michael Downes ran over to the pier and assessed the situation. Noticing that the tide was on the turn and without a moment’s thought for his own safety Michael dived off the pier and into the water. He swam out to where the panicking boy was (approximately 120 yards) and attempted to calm him down,”the citation says.

Michael Downes with from left his son Patrick, wife Maureen and Karen Downes who received a silver medal at the Oireachtas National Bravery awards for the rescue of a boy from the sea in Old Head, Louisburgh, Co. Mayo in July 1974Michael Downes with from left his son Patrick, wife Maureen and Karen Downes who received a silver medal at the Oireachtas National Bravery awards for the rescue of a boy from the sea in Old Head, Louisburgh, Co. Mayo in July 1974 Photo: Maxwells

“The tide was now rapidly turning and the boy at this point had become exhausted. Michael, knowing how tired the boy was, secured him over the bow of the canoe and attempted to swim back to the pier, pulling the canoe,”it says.

“ As the tide was going out, he had to navigate across a rocky patch where he received significant cuts resulting in loss of blood and hypothermia. Despite the rocks cutting him he managed to get the boy back to the safety of the pier where they were received and looked after, although Michael still carries the scars to this day,”the citation says.

Two gardai, James Keegan and Colin Kyne-Delaney and Lee Conlon were awarded a bronze medal for saving a man from the river Liffey on March 14th, 2020.

Mr Lee Conlon (left) and Garda Colin Kyne-Delaney and who all received bronze medals at the Oireachtas National Bravery awards for the rescue of a man from the River Liffey at Eden Quay in March 2020 Photo: MaxwellsMr Lee Conlon (left) and Garda Colin Kyne-Delaney and who all received bronze medals at the Oireachtas National Bravery awards for the rescue of a man from the River Liffey at Eden Quay in March 2020 Photo: Maxwells

“As well as the obvious risk to their lives, including the risk of struggling in cold water and possible drowning, there was also the risk of disease such as Weil’s disease which highlights the great risk that these gardai and Mr Conlon took in order to conduct this rescue,”the citation says.

The annual honours are awarded 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 and County Councils, and the chairman of the Irish Red Cross.

The Ceann Comhairle said that “on behalf of the people of Ireland, let me thank the brave recipients for their actions, for their selflessness, for their courage and for showing us that we can all make a difference on this island we share and in this world we walk together.”

Full list of citations:

Citation No 1 - Mr John Colfer

Intervening in an assault on a Garda

On the evening of 24 September 2018, John Colfer was cycling home from work and encountered a gang of youths attacking a member of An Garda Síochána. The Garda had been hit in the face, his nose was broken and he had been knocked to the ground. John Colfer intervened and placed himself between the assailants and the injured Garda. Despite ongoing threats and being outnumbered by 5 to 1, John stood his ground and protected the Garda from further attack. John stayed at the scene until more Gardaí arrived on the scene to deal with the gang.

For his efforts, John Colfer is awarded a bronze medal.

Citation No 2 – Garda Kieran Donovan

Saving a man from a motorway bridge

On the morning of 16 July 2018, Gardaí responded to a report of a man, who appeared to be extremely distressed and emotional, standing on the outer rail of a motorway flyover bridge. It was an approx. 20-25metre drop to the motorway below. Garda Donovan climbed out onto the side of the bridge rail to talk to the man and to help get him to return in off the ledge. The man eventually agreed to walk off the ledge with Garda Donovan and received medical attention and aid immediately.

For his efforts Garda Kieran Donovan is awarded a bronze medal.

Citation No 3 - Garda James Keegan, Garda Colin Kyne-Delaney and Mr Lee Conlon

Rescue of a man from the River Liffey at Eden Quay

On the afternoon of Saturday, 14 March 2020, a man was seen entering the River Liffey. Garda James Keegan, Garda Colin Kyne-Delaney and Mr. Lee Conlon swiftly entered the river to try to save the man. An ambulance was waiting when they brought him to street level and resuscitation efforts began. As well as the obvious risk to their lives, including the risk of struggling in cold water and possible drowning, there was also the risk of disease such as Weil’s disease which highlights the great risk that these Gardai and Mr Conlon took in order to conduct this rescue.

For their efforts Garda James Keegan, Garda Colin Kyne-Delaney and Mr Lee Conlon are each awarded a bronze medal.

Citation No 4 – Michael Nallon

Rescue of a man from an overturned digger

On Friday 7 August 2020, Michael Nallon was working with a colleague in the townland of Ballinafad, Belcarra, Co. Mayo. His colleague, who was driving an excavator, became medically unwell and slumped over the controls of the machine. The machine spun around a couple of times and then entered the river. According to Gardaí, the river was high and fast flowing as a result of heavy rain over the previous days. Mr. Nallon entered the water and climbed into the cab to rescue his colleague. He remained on the machine for almost an hour, holding his colleague’s head above water until help from the emergency services arrived. His colleague was then safely taken from the machine, placed on a stretcher and stabilised. A helicopter was required to remove him from the site due to the remote location and bring him to hospital.

For his efforts Michael Nallon is awarded a Bronze Medal

Citation 5 - Micheál Bourke and Katie Butler Haughney

Rescue of a boy from a waterhole

On 11 February, 2020, Daniel Bourke, who was just 2 at the time went missing and was later discovered, by his brother, head first in a hole which was approximately 4 foot deep and full of muddy water. There had been heavy snow in the area and the extent of the hole had been hidden. His brother Micheál, who was 9 years old at the time attempted to pull him out of the water but due to the weight of Daniel’s saturated clothes he was unable to. His sister, Katie Butler Haughney, who was 14 at the time succeeded in pulling him out. The toddler was blue and lifeless and was carried into the house where his mother started doing compressions.

After 20 minutes of CPR, he started to breathe again and colour began to return to his face. The little boy was taken to an ambulance and from there, lifted by helicopter to Limerick Regional Hospital, where he eventually made a full recovery.

For their efforts Micheál Bourke and Katie Butler Haughney are each awarded a Bronze Medal.

Citation No 6 - Garda Brendan Crawford and Garda Ciaran Murray

Rescue of a woman from the River Camac

On the morning of 17 June 2020 a woman was walking her dog on a harness lead near the Camac river. The dog fell into the water near a culvert running under the M50 motorway and pulled its owner in too. There had been very heavy rain in the previous days and the water level was high. The current was so strong that the lady and her dog were swept into the tunnel. When Gardaí arrived the woman was too far down the tunnel to be seen but could be heard crying for help. The Gardaí took ropes from their car and entered the water. The woman was located about 50 feet into the tunnel which was too far for their rope. Gardaí Murray and Crawford continued through the water and managed to get to the woman who had held onto her dog which was struggling causing her to sink under the water. Garda Crawford took hold of the dog and both he and Garda Murray assisted the lady out of the tunnel and eventually brought her back through the waters. Despite being barely able to speak from cold and shock, the lady made a full recovery.

For their efforts Garda Brendan Crawford and Garda Ciaran Murray are each awarded a Bronze Medal.

Citation No 7 – Michael Downes

Rescue of a boy from the sea in Old Head, Louisburgh, Co. Mayo

In July 1974 a boy fell out of his canoe in the sea near Oldhead beach. The boy had lost his paddle and was grabbing on to the side of the canoe panicking and shouting for help. Michael Downes ran over to the pier and assessed the situation. Noticing that the tide was on the turn and without a moment’s thought for his own safety Michael dived off the pier and into the water. He swam out to where the panicking boy was (approximately 120 yards) and attempted to calm him down. The tide was now rapidly turning and the boy at this point had become exhausted. Michael , knowing how tired the boy was, secured him over the bow of the canoe and attempted to swim back to the pier pulling the canoe. As the tide was going out, he had to navigate across a rocky patch where he received significant cuts resulting in loss of blood and hypothermia. Despite the rocks cutting him he managed to get the boy back to the safety of the pier where they were received and looked after, although Michael still carries the scars to this day.

For his efforts Michael Downes is awarded a Silver Medal

Citation No 8 – Liam Halpin

Rescue of a woman from the sea in Co. Clare

On August the 3rd 2020 at approximately 4:30 pm, a twenty year old woman and her thirteen year old foster brother were on the beach at Doughmore Bay in Doonbeg. They were playing in the water and jumping the waves. Shortly afterwards the young boy ran up the beach screaming that the young lady had been suddenly swept out to sea due to the undercurrent and strong waves.

He pointed to where she was, but no one could see her as she was being swept out further and further to sea. Nobody could go in as no one had any kind of buoyancy aid. After about 15 minutes Liam Halpin jumped in with a small red body board, despite the pleadings of his family not to go in. He managed to get to the young woman just as she felt she could no longer fight on. Around 15 minutes later he had her back on shore. The Coastguard attended and she was then airlifted to Limerick University Hospital.

For his efforts Liam Halpin is awarded a Silver Medal.

Citation No 9 – Miley Doran

Rescue of a woman and her daughter from the River Barrow, Co. Carlow

On Sunday 30 May 2021, 17 year old Miley Doran saved a woman and her 13 year old daughter from drowning on the River Barrow. The girl went into the water with friends but got into difficulty and when her mother entered the river in an effort to save her, she too started struggling with the strength of the current in the water. Miley Doran, who was fishing nearby heard the screams calling for help and ran to their aid.

Miley dived into the water without hesitation and rescued the young girl first, pulling her to the bank, whereupon he turned back to rescue her mother. He then put his jumper back on, gathered his fishing gear and left without seeking praise or recognition.

The President of Ireland himself commented on Miley Doran’s actions saying he was enormously impressed by his courage and generous instinct.

For his efforts Miley Doran is awarded a Silver Medal.

Citation No 10 – Rosaleen Feeney

Rescue of a man from a burning house in Co. Mayo

At 6.20 am on the morning of 31 May 2021 a fire broke out at a house near Ballinrobe, Co. Mayo. On noticing the fire, the elderly occupant activated his emergency pendant and Rosaleen Feeney, who was his emergency contact, responded. On route to the house she could see flames and rang the Gardaí and fire service. On her arrival Rosaleen could see the fire closing in around the elderly man who was shouting at her through the window. He told her he could feel the heat of the fire. Rosaleen smashed the window and pulled him through it, burning her hand in the process. The man’s clothes had started to burn and he was treated by ambulance crew and then moved to Mayo University Hospital.

For her efforts Rosaleen Feeney is awarded a Silver Medal.

Citation No 11 – Stephen Ryan

Rescue of 3 women from the sea in Greystones, Co. Wicklow

On 23 April 2022, at the North Cove, Greystones, Co Wicklow, three females entered the sea at a point known locally as “The North Cove”, a sheltered area of the beach behind a line of rock armour. There was a strong easterly wind blowing ashore, causing heavy seas. A short time later a number of calls were made requesting emergency services.

Stephen Ryan, having already made it back to the beach, took his surf board and re-entered the water himself, swimming out to the females beyond the safety of the North Cove. He then held the three females on his surf board whilst attempting to provide CPR to one of them as best he could whilst in the water. The stiff easterly wind and rising tide made his task more difficult and the group spent approximately 40 minutes in the water, before being brought ashore. Sadly, despite Stephen’s best efforts one of the women brought ashore was pronounced dead. However local Gardaí noted that without his help there would have been more fatalities.

For his efforts Stephen Ryan is awarded a Silver Medal.

Citation No 12 – Kevin Barr

Rescue of a woman from Lough Foyle, Co. Donegal

On Thursday 20 August 2020 Storm Ellen brought very high winds and heavy rainfall across the country. At around 10.pm, a car skidded off the road and fell into the water at Quigley’s Point, Co. Donegal. A member of Greencastle Coast Guard Unit, Kevin Barr, lived locally and was quickly on the scene. A woman was observed on the bottom of the car as the car had turned over and landed on the roof. The waves were washing over her and she was in danger of being washed off the vehicle. Without any hesitation Mr Barr made his way with the assistance of the fire service down to the vehicle and held onto her until the other emergency services arrived and helped get her to safety. Tragically , her husband and two children had also been in the car and their bodies were later recovered. The lady who survived later thanked all those who had assisted on the night but paid particular tribute to Kevin Barr for his intervention.

For his efforts Kevin Barr is awarded a Gold Medal.

Published in Rescue, River Liffey
Lorna Siggins

About The Author

Lorna Siggins

Email The Author

Lorna Siggins is a print and radio reporter, and a former Irish Times western correspondent. She is the author of Search and Rescue: True stories of Irish Air-Sea Rescues and the Loss of R116 (2022); Everest Callling (1994) on the first Irish Everest expedition; Mayday! Mayday! (2004); and Once Upon a Time in the West: the Corrib gas controversy (2010). She is also co-producer with Sarah Blake of the Doc on One "Miracle in Galway Bay" which recently won a Celtic Media Award

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