Irish Coast Guard marks 200 years in operation

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.

Coast Guard Unit and Support Manager Niall Ferns will be presented with a medal for 40 years of service, while two other colleagues will also receive medals for long-term 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.

Now 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.

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.”

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