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.
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.
“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.”