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#CrewCommended - On a visit to Malta yesterday, Minister for Defence Simon Coveney visited L.É. Samuel Beckett currently deployed in the Mediterranean on humanitarian search and rescue operations.

Earlier in the day, the Minister met with EU Commissioner Karmenu Vella to discuss key issues in relation to fisheries and the increasing potential of the blue economy to contribute to national recovery and to the wider EU economy.

In the afternoon, the Minister visited L.É. Samuel Beckett berthed in Valetta for resupply and met with the ship’s captain, Lieutenant Commander Anthony Geraghty, and members of the crew to review the ongoing operation and to commend the important work they are doing in addressing the humanitarian fallout from the migrant crisis in the central Mediterranean.

The Minister was accompanied on his visit by Assistant Secretary General Ciaran Murphy and the Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces, Vice Admiral Mark Mellett.

Speaking to the crew on deck of L.É. Samuel Beckett, the Minister said: “While the tempo of operations in this part of the Mediterranean may have declined somewhat in the past few weeks, we cannot become complacent. As the sea condition worsens, there is an increasing risk for all those who embark on the dangerous journey from North Africa to Europe. We must continue to be ever vigilant to their plight and continue to operate to the highest standards to ensure as far as is humanly possible that all those at risk in this sea are rescued.”

L.É. Samuel Beckett replaced L.É. Niamh at the end of September and will continue Ireland’s contribution to the search and rescue mission up to December 2015, subject to ongoing assessment of the crisis and the operational need to continue to provide such assistance.

The operation is being conducted in close coordination with the Italian authorities. The vessel will not be replaced on withdrawal but a review of the mission to date and consideration of possible further participation in operations in the Mediterranean next year will be evaluated over the coming months.

L.É. Samuel Beckett with a crew of 59 Naval Service personnel including 4 Defence Forces medics drawn from the Army, Navy and Air Corps is continuing the remarkable work started by L.É. Eithne and continued by L.É. Niamh.

To date, L.É. Samuel Beckett has rescued 562 men women and children, bringing the total rescued by Naval Service vessels to date to nearly 8,100.

Addressing the crew directly the Minister said: “The work of the Naval Service to date, here in the Mediterranean, stands as testament to what a small committed country can do if there is the political will to respond. It’s not about being large or small but about commitment to serve. You, the members of this ship’s company, stand witness to the tragedy unfolding here in the Mediterranean. Not alone do you mount important rescue operations and bring hope to those you rescue, but you also focus the continuing attention of Irish and international public opinion on this crisis. I have no doubt, but that in the best traditions of the Naval Service and of the Defence Forces you will continue to do your duty.”

Minister Coveney concluded “Migration is a major challenge confronting the EU and there are no easy answers. However, Ireland is committed to doing its part as a committed member of the Union in responding to that crisis. You are a key part of that national response and, on behalf of myself and the Irish Government, I would like to thank you all for your outstanding work in the Mediterranean to date. I wish you every success for the future and a safe return to your families.”

Published in Navy

#NavalTwinning – The Munster Express writes that Waterford City and County Councillor Eddie Mulligan, has called for the twinning of Irish Navy’s newest vessel with the city.

The twinning of LE James Joyce with Waterford city the councillor said was to ‘revive a unique bond that exists between ship and the city’.

The LE Aoife, the last navy ship to be twinned with the city, was decommissioned in January (not May, Afloat adds) before it was presented to the Maltese Government.

Commenting on the twining, Cllr Mulligan stated: “In 1998 Waterford City and the Navy began a 17-year relationship that would see the LE Aoife visit the city on numerous occasions.

Click here for more on the proposed twinning of the OPV that was commissioned and named in Dun Laoghaire Harbour in September.

Published in Navy

Youghal, on the East Cork coastline, was once the biggest Irish port trading with Britain. It has a long and proud maritime history, with many men serving at sea in the naval and merchant marine. The current edition of THIS ISLAND NATION radio programme gives listeners a unique look at life aboard one of the Naval Service’s newest vessels, the LE James Joyce, built at a cost of €54m.
CRY 104FM, where THIS ISLAND NATION is produced, has been given unique access to the ship and a three-part documentary series has been made about three men from Youghal who are serving aboard the vessel. They are Chief Petty Officer Kevin Mulcahy and Petty Officers Mark Ansbro and Brian Crowley. Uniquely, another member of the Naval Service, also from Youghal – Leading Seaman Ron Coveney, in his sixteenth year of service – has been given exclusive access and permission to make a three-part radio documentary about life aboard the vessel, called: LE JAMES JOYCE – THE YOUGHAL CONNECTION. It recounts also what life is like for the families of servicemen and how they cope with life while the menfolk are at sea.

YOUGHAL SAILORS BROADCASTERS

From L-R Commander Cormac Rynne Officer Commanding Shore Operations, Series Producer LS Ron Coveney. LS Alan Cronin, CPO David Hughes, PO James McGrath.

THIS ISLAND NATION broadcasts an extract from the series which begins transmission on CRY 104 FM from Thursday October 22nd at 6.30 p.m., with the second and third parts being broadcast at the same time on October 29 and November 5. The series can also be heard online on www.cry104fm.com produced and presented by Ron Coveney, Leading Seaman in the Naval Service.
The programme also reports the success of Irish lifesavers in winning the top awards in Europe and the huge gift of €8m. which the lifeboat service has received in the form of two historic Ferraris. The reaction of Aran Islanders to winning their battle with the Government over the air service to the islands is also reported.

Published in Island Nation
Tagged under

#100rescued - Naval Service patrol ship LÉ Samuel Beckett this morning rescued more than 100 people, including two children, from an inflatable craft off the Libyan coast.

It is the second humanitarian rescue for the vessel, which took over from the LÉ Niamh at the start of the month as the Irish Defence Forces’ ship in the Mediterranean assisting with the rescue of migrants.

According to the Defence Forces an inflatable craft carrying migrants was spotted about 50km north-west off the coast of Tripoli.

For more The Irish Times reports with links to the LÉ Niamh which had carried out the humanitarian role until the 'Beckett' tookover in the same waters off north Africa. During three months on duty the crew of the 'Niamh' rescued more than 4,200 people.

The LE Niamh completed her deployment when she returned to a hero's welcome in Cork earlier this month.

Published in Navy

#NavalBudget - An allocation of €904m in Defence funding for 2016 was announced by Minister Coveney today.

The increased allocation for 2016 represents a new very significant commitment to Defence and will allow Defence to deliver on the commitments outlined in the recently published White Paper on Defence.

Minister Coveney stated: Today’s Budget announcement marks a new chapter in spending and commitment for the Defence Forces. For the past number of years it has been necessary to stabilise the economy and put the national finances on a sound footing but now Defence expenditure, linked to the White Paper on Defence, is increasing again. The White Paper on Defence sets out the roles that Government have assigned to the Defence Forces and looks at associated capability requirements. The allocation of over €900 million to Defence will enable the Defence Forces to undertake these roles with professionalism and dedication.

It will also facilitate the implementation of the White Paper proposals, including the replacement of major equipment platforms and other priorities for the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service. As previously reported on Afloat.ie this involves three new patrol ships. 

Minister Coveney emphasised the significance of the Capital allocation of €66m in 2016 and €437m over the period of the ‘Building on Recovery: Infrastructure and Capital Investment 2016-2021 Plan’. This will allow Defence to prioritise and plan for significant capital investment programmes over the coming years. Minister Coveney stated: We have had a very good outcome from the capital plan announced recently, where, over the next six years, we will see an increase in capital expenditure for Defence to a total of €437m over the life of the Capital Investment Plan.

The 2016 budgetary allocation will allow Ireland to continue to deliver on all roles prescribed for the Defence Forces, both domestically and overseas and Minister Coveney highlighted, in particular, the role played by the Naval Service in their deployment to the Mediterranean this year, as he stated: The people of Ireland can truly be proud of the work the Naval Service has done and is continuing to do and I wish them every continued success with their work. This is in addition to the ongoing high standard of performance by the Defence Forces on other overseas missions and in their various security roles at home.

Financial Overview: The gross allocation provided to the Defence Sector in 2016 is €904m: comprising of some €680m for Defence (Vote 36) and €224m for Army Pensions (Vote 35). Some €498m of the Defence Vote provides for the pay and allowances, of over 10,500 public service employees. This pay provision will allow for ongoing recruitment and the Minister has re-affirmed his commitment to maintain the strength of the Permanent Defence Force at a level of 9,500.

The non-pay allocation of €182m (including €66m in capital) provides mainly for essential and ongoing Defence Forces standing and operational costs together with the necessary procurement and upgrading of defensive equipment.

The Naval Vessel Replacement Programme continued in 2015 with the addition to the fleet of the LÉ James Joyce and the third ship purchased under the programme, the future LÉ William Butler Years, is scheduled for delivery in July 2016. This programme was advanced without recourse to additional funding and was financed through careful management of financial resources.

The Defence Vote also includes funding for the Reserve Defence Force, Civil Defence and a grant to the Irish Red Cross Society.

As regards the Army Pensions Vote, there are over 12,100 military pensioners paid by the Department of Defence. Army Pensions expenditure is largely non-discretionary and demand-driven.

The launch of the White Paper on Defence has established the strategic parameters within which Defence will operate over the next decade and Defence policy will need to be responsive to any emergent changes in the domestic and international peace and security environment.

Published in Navy

#RefugeeRescue2016 - The Irish Times reports that the Naval Service which has rescued almost 8,000 migrants in the Mediterranean is set to continue next year, according to Minister for Defence Simon Coveney.

While the deployment would likely pause in December and January, it would recommence in early spring, he added.

Mr Coveney said he remained committed to increasing the number of Defence Forces personnel serving overseas to 850.

Just under 500 are currently abroad serving with 16 international missions.

Illegal fishing

The Minister said that while the work in the Mediterranean was “valuable”, the Naval Service was not big enough to maintain patrols for illegal fishing in Irish waters to the same extent as normal while a ship was deployed off the coast of Italy.

“I make no apologies for that,” he said at the annual conference in Galway of PDforra, the group representing soldiers, air crew and sailors. “We have prioritised saving lives in the Mediterranean over fisheries protection duties, but we can’t maintain that forever.”

If the Naval Service was to have a permanent presence overseas, the number of ships in the current eight-vessel fleet would need to be reviewed.

To read on the tax-free overseas allowance PDforra has called for Naval Service members and more click here.

Published in Navy

#NavalPay- The Irish Times reports that members of the Naval Service rescuing migrants from the Mediterranean are not entitled to full overseas service payments because they are not in danger, the Department of Defence has said.

PDforra, the association representing soldiers, sailors and aircrew, is urging Minister for Defence Simon Coveney to pay those on the international rescue mission in the Mediterranean the same daily allowances as soldiers deployed in world trouble spots.

Members of the Army serving in missions in Lebanon and the Golan Heights between Israel and Syria are entitled to €80 per day tax free as well as their usual salaries.

However, those sailors working in the Mediterranean have been offered €50 per day, tax free.

PDforra says the ships the Naval Service personnel are working on are fully armed and that sailors have had to produce their firearms when pulling up alongside some boats packed with migrants.

Because of that, it believes the personnel are entitled to the full daily payments, which would be worth between €1,500 and €2,000 tax free over a tour of duty.

The newspaper has more on the story, click here.

Published in Navy

#BeckettRescue - The patrol ship LÉ Samuel Beckett of the Naval Service has rescued 242 people off the Libyan coast on its first humanitarian tasking in the Mediterranean, reports The Irish Times.

The ship, which took over from the LÉ Niamh last week, located a wooden craft with 237 men and five women on board about 80 km north-west of Tripoli around 8am Irish time yesterday.

The overloaded craft had been sighted at 3am by an Italian naval helicopter, and the Italian Marine Rescue Co-ordination Centre directed a number of ships to the area, including the LÉ Samuel Beckett and the British naval service ship HMS Enterprise.

For more on the story, click here.

Published in Navy

#DeploymentDecember – According to The Irish Independent, the role of Ireland’s migrant rescue mission in the Mediterranean headed by the Naval Service will be suspended from early December.

The Government believes the rescue mission, undertaken in conjunction with the Italian Coastguard, can be suspended given the likelihood that winter weather and Mediterranean storms will drastically reduce the number of migrant boats being launched.

Defence Minister Simon Coveney has hinted that Ireland will consider ordering a fourth Naval Service patrol ship to waters off Sicily and Libya in early 2016 if formally requested to do so by the EU.

Three Irish ships - LÉ Eithne, LÉ Niamh and LÉ Samuel Beckett - have rescued more than 7,500 migrants since the first navy ship was deployed last May.

LÉ Niamh (recently returned) alone rescued more than 4,100 migrants and recovered 39 bodies.

The Government confirmed plans to bring the LÉ Samuel Beckett back to Ireland without a replacement vessel in early December.

The move came as it emerged Cork and Kerry are set to be asked to accommodate the first 100 Syrian refugees to arrive.

For further coverage the newspaper has more by clicking here.

Published in Navy

#LeNiamhReturns - The crew of a Naval Service patrol ship savoured a hero’s welcome home after three months in the Mediterranean during which time they saved more than 4,200 migrants, reports the Irish Independent.

The LE Niamh and her 59-strong crew arrived back yesterday at Haulbowline Naval Base in Cork to full military honours and a dockside thronged by families desperate to be reunited with their loved ones.

The ship made history as the first Irish vessel on which a baby was successfully delivered.

More than 500 relatives, friends and colleagues gathered on the dockside to cheer the crew as they ended their three month tour of duty.

Defence Forces chief of staff, Vice-Admiral Mark Mellet, said the families had every right to be proud of what the crew had achieved.

"In the course of doing their job they have seen things that no-one should have to witness," he added.
LE Niamh also recovered multiple bodies from the Mediterranean after migrant boats capsized and sank.

The vessel arrives in Cork after being replaced on station off North Africa by LE Samuel Beckett which as reported on Afloat.ie met in the western Mediterranean earlier this week to transfer equipment and key personnel.

The new Irish patrol vessel took up duties off the North African coast on Thursday evening. For more about the homecoming of the OPV to Cork Harbour, click here.

Published in Navy
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