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Tall Ship Youth Training Vessel Requires Urgent Reinstatement of State Funding - Atlantic Youth Trust

30th September 2021
Grace O'Malley - A 164ft Tradewind schooner has been identified as a 'successor' to Asgard II, according to the Atlantic Youth Trust
Grace O'Malley - A 164ft Tradewind schooner has been identified as a successor to Asgard II, according to the Atlantic Youth Trust

Youth development, education and cultural charity the Atlantic Youth Trust have made a direct appeal to An Taoiseach, Micheál Martin TD and Minister Simon Harris TD, to reinstate the €950,000 which came from the National Lottery to support the operational costs of a new tall ship for Ireland. The charity made the call against the clear commitment in the Programme for Government to develop Ireland’s ocean wealth, sustainability, and the environment.

As Afloat reported earlier, the group says it has identified a ship to replace the lost Asgard II. The ship, the trust says, will act as the new ‘flagship’ for introducing young people across the island of Ireland to maritime and careers. In addition, it will have a key role to play in the areas of research, innovation, tourism promotion and providing a support outlet for vulnerable young people.

Chair of the Atlantic Youth Trust, Enda O'CoineenChair of the Atlantic Youth Trust, Enda O'Coineen

Chair of the Atlantic Youth Trust, and former Director of Coiste an Asgard, Enda O’Coineen was introduced to the ocean and adventure on the original Asgard. He advocates for how this opportunity changed the course of his life and is joined by a high-level group of youth workers, people in business and academics behind the project. Commenting Mr O’Coineen said: “With a large research-led support base, we have long since championed for the need to replace Ireland’s lost sail training vessel the Asgard II in a dynamic and creative new way.

“This would be a strategically important move for ensuring we are well-positioned to maintain our island’s rich maritime heritage, skill set and knowledge. This will be vital for connecting future generations with the ocean and adventure who might normally never get the opportunity. As we emerge from the Covid 19 pandemic, the urgency for supporting projects like this has never been more important as we seek to address growing mental health challenges facing our young people.”

In looking for a solution to this, the Atlantic Youth Trust has identified, a 164ft Tradewind schooner lying in Sweden which is an ideally suited replacement for delivering youth maritime development and sail training.

The 164ft Tradewind schooner lying in SwedenThe 164ft Tradewind schooner lying in Sweden

The ship is to be renamed the Grace O’Malley, after the so-called Mayo ‘Pirate Queen’. Built of steel in a modern structure, and elegant lines of a 19th century Tall Ship, she is considered fit for purpose to high safety specifications.

Mr O’Coineen added: “In our recent pre-budget 2022 submission to the Office of An Taoiseach and other Government Departments, we called for the reinstatement of an annual Government subsidy to assist with the day-to-day operational costs of a new vessel.

This funding was previously channelled through the National Lottery. Given the strong training and education remit planned for the new vessel, we believe it’s pertinent that Government funding, if reinstated, is directed via the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, under Minister Simon Harris.

“To support our pre-budget submission, we also included a comprehensive business proposal outlining how the purchase of the identified successor ship will be funded through private and philanthropic sources. This can only happen if the State commits to reinstating the former Asgard II National Lottery funds to support the new ship’s operations budget. We believe the reinstation of these funds would go a long way in supporting a clear commitment made in both the Programme for Government and the Ocean Wealth Strategy to develop Ireland’s ocean wealth, sustainability, and the environment, integrated through the National Marine Co-Ordination Group”

In addition, the Atlantic Youth Trust are seeking a once-off commencement grant from Government of €880,000 to support refit costs, ensuring the ship is fit-for purpose with disabled access as well as the establishment of an organisation to run the ships operation. This commencement budget would represent approximately 20 per cent of the insurance funds retained by the State when the Asgard II was lost.

Head of the National Maritime College of Ireland and Atlantic Youth Trust advisory board member, Cormac Gebruer said: “To have a tall ship back in Ireland repurposed to introduce our younger generations to the maritime would be a significantly important and strategic development for the College. There are huge opportunities to utilise this initiative for research purposes linking in with human behaviour and marine sciences which would complement the work we are doing here in the College.

“The Atlantic Youth Trust has been an exemplary resource in leading a world-class solution for youth development integrated with the maritime across Ireland together with its focus on research and partnering with other colleges, such as NUI Galway. We at the National Maritime College of Ireland very much support the endeavours to secure a suitable replacement tall ship training vessel following the loss of the Asgard II.”

As Afloat reported at the time Asgard sank off the French coast in 2008. More details on the background to the sinking, campaign to raise and then replace her are in Afloat's dedicated Asgard II section

Co-founder of Sailing into Wellness and Atlantic Youth Trust advisory board member, James Lyons said: “Following a recent visit to Sweden to see the proposed successor ship in lying, I’m convinced that she will fire people’s imagination if brought to Ireland renamed as the Grace O’Malley. Built with submarine steel to the highest specifications and modelled on a classic wooden tall ship, she will make an ideal tall ship for Ireland with some small modifications.”

Once the Irish Government commits to the reinstatement of the Asgard II funding, additional financial support for the project will then be sought from the Northern Ireland Executive, with the initiative marked as a North-South venture. It’s envisaged that the ship will act as a fantastic promotional platform for tourism, enterprise, culture and the marine across the island of Ireland.

Chair of Tall Ships Belfast 2009 & 2015 and Atlantic Youth Trust advisory board member, Dr Gerard O’Hare said: “While there is an onus on the Irish Government to honour its commitment to supporting the maritime through the reinstatement of the Asgard II funding, there is also scope to seek support from the Northern Irish Executive once the project is up and running. This could include part-funding the initial fit-out planned for early 2022 in Belfast.”

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