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City Quay in the centre of Dublin can be a cold place when the wind whips upriver from the open sea.

There was a 'bite' in the wind as I stood there in late November last year, recording the sounds of remembrance. Men, women and children stood in front of a monument where, on most days, traffic pours past and the great majority of people in those vehicles may not realise they are passing a hallowed spot which remembers men without whom this nation would have ground to a halt. This nation may be in a state of "economic war" at present, it was in a real state of war when those men died.

Every year, on the second last Sunday of November, this gathering takes place, when the men of the Irish mercantile marine who lost their lives at sea during the Second World War are remembered. Mass is celebrated in the City Quay Parish Church. Then there is a short walk to the Seamen's Memorial where wreaths are laid. That is followed by tea, coffee and a chat in the parish hall where it is a time of memories for former seafarers and their families. Friendships are renewed as the "family of the sea" gathers. In the afternoon, there is another Memorial Service St. Patrick's Cathedral.

These are poignant occasions which, in recent years, have been extended to embrace, remember and honour all Irish seafarers who have died at sea. The Maritime Institute of Ireland organises the event. Its Cork Branch also holds a remembrance service in November.

The month of November is an important one in the history of Irish maritime affairs.

It was on November 14, 1984 that the then Irish Government, a Fine Gael/Labour Coalition delivered a shattering blow to the Irish maritime industry. They put the national shipping company, Irish Shipping, into liquidation.

Those who took that decision have since put distance between themselves and the maritime sector. Garrett Fitzgerald was Taoiseach; Alan Dukes was the Minister for Finance in the Fine Gael/Labour Coalition Government which made that controversial decision, putting the first Irish State company into liquidation. Seafarers who had rallied to the call to help save the nation when the company was set up in World War Two were abandoned to their fate. Politicians did not want to remember that, at a time when neutral Ireland was being denied vital supplies by warring nations, seafarers saved the nation from disaster. The politicians who ruled the nation in 1984 abandoned them.

Shortly after they abandoned Irish Shipping, the Government was quick to rescue Allied Irish Banks and protect shareholders over the consequences of rash investment in insurance. Banks were more important than seafarers. It seems that not a lot has changed today in the attitude the Government takes towards banks, in comparison with the way it treats the people of this island nation.

• The Annual National Commemoration Services for Irish Seafarers will be held at 11.30 am this Sunday, November 21, in the Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, City Quay, Dublin. Wreaths will be laid afterwards at the Irish Seaman's National Memorial on City Quay. There will also be a memorial ceremony of Evensong at 3.15 pm in St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin.

• This article is reprinted by permission of the EVENING ECHO newspaper, Cork, where Tom MacSweeney writes maritime columns twice weekly. Evening Echo website: www.eecho.ie

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Published in Island Nation
12th November 2010

An Irish Maritime Foundation

I wonder whether there might be interest in forming an Irish Maritime Foundation?

I raise the question having discussed the possibility with those who run the UK Maritime Foundation and whose views about the sea about the sea impressed me when I met them in London. The Foundation traces its history back to 1981 when shipowners, senior retired naval officers and people involved in the financial industry reacted to changes in British Government policy that were regarded as failing to protect the importance of the UK maritime industry. It is a registered charity with the purpose of promoting and raising interest in the maritime sector amongst the public, the media and Parliament. To do so it is involved in assisting development of maritime education, training and research.

The British are a magnanimous people in my view. It was an honour to accept the Desmond Wettern Award from the Foundation. Desmond Wettern was a distinguished UK maritime journalist for over 30 years and the awards were established in his name. This year the Society for Nautical Research joined the awards project.

In responding I used one of my favourite descriptions - "the Family of the Sea," which I have used on radio. It drew a lot of interest from those present. I believe there is a "family of the sea" which spans oceans and seas, linking those who appreciate the sea as essential to human survival.

"Everyone who has an interest in the sea would recognise that there are and will continue to be, increasing pressures on its use and on the exploitation of its finite resources, but also a number of opportunities," according to Rear Admiral Christopher Perry, Chairman of the UK Marine Management Organisation. Those views and others I discussed with some of those amongst the 200 attending the function, who came from various parts of the world. Professor Richard Harding of the Society for Nautical Research which is marking its centenary, expressed this opinion: "There is a disturbing sense of sea-blindness in the British Government, amongst the general public at large and in the media."

There is certainly sea-blindness in our Government and in much of the media, though I am hopeful that there is growing awareness of the importance of the marine sector amongst the general public. If Ireland had an organisation like the Maritime Foundation, I would be very pleased.

• This article is reprinted by permission of the EVENING ECHO newspaper, Cork, where Tom MacSweeney writes maritime columns twice weekly. Evening Echo website: www.eecho.ie

Published in Island Nation

For the first time an Irish maritime journalist was honoured by the British Maritime Foundation at its annual awards ceremony in London. The Desmond Wettern Award was presented to Afloat's Tom MacSweeney. It is made to the writer, broadcaster, journalist who in the opinion of the Foundation's Awards Committee has made the most constructive contribution to generating awareness of maritime issues.

The Awards Committee said that the significance of issues chosen, work in radio, television and newspapers and magazines, the range and depth of analysis and impact on public awareness of maritime issues were the reasons for the award to be made to a journalist outside of the UK for the first time.

There was a £1,000 award with the trophy which MacSweeney donated at the ceremony back to the Foundation for support to their work, particularly in the area of tall ships opportunities and sea training for young people. The Foundation will be offering places to Irish people and are interested in extending the work of the Foundation to Ireland.

The Award was presented by Countess Mountbatten, President of the Maritime Foundation at a ceremony in the Institute of Directors building in Pall Mall, London.

Tom MacSweeney is a columnist with Afloat, Ireland's national sailing magazine and Special Correspondent with Ireland's national fishing industry newspaper, The Marine Times. He was formerly Marine Correspondent with RTE, Ireland's national radio and television service and is a former winner of Ireland's maritime person of the year award as well as a maritime author.

TV historian Dan Snow won the Donal Gosling Award for his four-part BBC2 series, Empire of the Seas. This is for the best television, film or radio contribution.

Over 200 celebrities, journalists, business figures and senior naval officers attended this year's Maritime Media Awards, held at the Institute of Directors in London Foundation president Countess Mountbatten of Burma presented prizes to winners of the six categories:

• The Desmond Wettern Media Award for the best journalistic contribution – freelance writer and broadcaster Tom MacSweeney for exemplary coverage of maritime matters
• The Donald Gosling Award for best television, film or radio contribution – Dan Snow, Empire of the Seas
• The Desmond Wettern Fleet award for best media contribution from HM Ship, submarine, Royal Navy Air Squadron or Royal Marine unit – HMS Kent
• The Mountbatten Maritime Award for best literary contribution – Richard Guilliatt and Peter Hohnen, The Wolf

• The Maritime Fellowship Award for an outstanding lifetime contribution in a particular maritime field – Undersea explorer David Mearns

• The Society for Nautical Research Anderson Medal for best contribution to maritime history – Nicholas Black, Head of History, Dulwich College for his book, British Naval Staff in the First World War

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The awardees in Pall Mall

UK_MARITIME_FOUNDATION_PRESIDENT_COUNTESS_MOUNTBATTEN_PRESENTING_UK_MARITIME_FOUNDATION_AWARD_TO_TOM_MACSWEENEY_WITH_SECRETARY_ANTHONY_HARVEY_ALSO_IN_PHOTO

Tom MacSweeney receives the award from Countess Mountbatten

Read Tom MacSweeney's weekly 'Island Nation' blog HERE

Published in Island Nation

A wonderful weekend of maritime celebration took place in Rosses Point in August. It was the inaugural festival of Shanty and Seafaring organised by a local committee. The event took place over three days in the in the village which is steeped in seafaring history. As well as the singing readings and poetry, traditional Rosses Point events such as the "Go as you Please" and "Maugherow Cup" were hotly contested.

Many people from the village who lost their lives at sea were remembered in a special Mass and wreath laying ceremony at the "waiting on the shore" monument.

The total amount raised over the weekend through bucket collections, bbqs, and purchase of a specially commissioned CD by the local group Ashore for a Loaf, was a staggering €4434.00.

liverpoolceremony

The Liverpool crew 

The cheque was presented to the RNLI fundraising Chairman Pat Carter by Ann Mannion on behalf of the Shanty Festival Committee.In accepting the cheque Pat Carter congratulated the Shanty committee on a wonderful event and thanked them for their most generous donation to the RNLI. Pat Carter went onto thank the local people who as ever give very generously the RNLI Sligo Bay. The RNLI lifeboat service is funded entirely through voluntary donations.

The Committee have just announced that they will be holding an even bigger and better Shanty & Seafaring Festival in mid June 2011

Published in Maritime Festivals

The cost of upgrading fishing boats to comply with new regulations first mooted three years ago means some boats cannot put to sea again. It's a move that will cost hundreds of jobs to coastal communities says Tom MacSweeney

The nation may be reeling from the revelations about Anglo Irish Bank and AIB. The fishing industry is reeling from another shocker. While earlier this week it cranked up its PR machine in an attempt to convince the public it was going to create jobs, the reality is that this Friday, October 1, it wiped out at least 200 and the overall effects of what it has done may throw as many as 800 people out of work in coastal areas.

That is callous disregard for people and underlines the disinterest and disrespect which the Government has for the maritime sector.

These jobs are in the fishing industry and are being lost because of a decision by the Department of Transport that smaller fishing boats, ranging in size from 15 to 24 metres must conform to the same safety standards as bigger boats, those over 25 metres, even though they operate under different fishing methods.

There can be no argument against safety, but there should be moderate, reasonable implementation of regulations. To quote the Taoiseach in his own recent defence, "moderation in all things." There are 99 boats in the Irish fleet in the 15-24 metre category. These are, effectively, day boats which operate in inshore waters, close to land. The Department has decided to implement regulations requiring them to conform to the same standards as bigger vessels that operate farther out to sea for extended periods.

Of the 99 boats nationwide faced with the implementation of the new regulations, 39 have not applied for certification, apparently because owners could either not afford the costs of upgrading the boats to the higher standard or felt the vessels would not be able to meet those standards, irrespective of how much money was spent on them. Those 39 boats have to be tied up, unable to go fishing any longer, another blow to the Irish fishing fleet. Their owners and crews will face unemployment.

The total number of jobs lost nationally could be up to 800, according to fishing organisations, when those whose livelihoods ashore depend on the 200 direct fishing jobs are added.

The Department makes the point that it has been known for three years that these new regulations would be imposed and that there has been ample time for owners to upgrade. Fishing organisations asked the Minister for Transport, Noel Dempsey, who also holds the brief of marine safety, to establish a separate category of safety requirements applying specifically to the smaller boats. Dempsey, who has not been a friend of the fishing industry, refused. So around 200 fishermen are out of work, directly due to a Government decision. It has not been explained why different regulations cannot be applied to different sizes of boats.

The sight of more Irish fishing boats tied to the quay wall, stopped by Irish Government regulations from working will not be pleasant.


• This article is reprinted by permission of the CORK EVENING ECHO in which Tom MacSweeney writes maritime columns twice weekly. Evening Echo website: www.eecho.ie

Published in Island Nation
Page 9 of 9

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