The Irish Coast Guard (IRCG; Irish: Garda Cósta na hÉireann [ˈɡaːɾˠd̪ˠə ˈkoːsˠt̪ˠə n̪ˠə ˈheːɾʲən̪ˠ]) is part of the Department of Transport in the Republic of Ireland. The primary roles of the Coast Guard include maritime safety and search and rescue. The Irish Marine Search and Rescue Region (IMSRR)[3] is the area over which the Coast Guard has responsibility.[4] This area is bordered by the UK Search and Rescue Region.

Irish Coast Guard
Garda Cósta na hÉireann
Irish Coast Guard emblem
Agency overview
JurisdictionRepublic of Ireland
HeadquartersLeeson Lane, Dublin 2
Minister responsible
Agency executive
  • Micheál O'Toole, Director[2]

History edit

Seirbhís Chósta um Anam Tharrtáil, Éire (literally "Coast Soul-Saving Service, Ireland") — sign in the National Maritime Museum of Ireland

The British Water Guard (formed 1809) and (Preventive) Coast Guard (formed 1822) extended to Ireland as part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.[1] During this period the Coast Guard played revenue protection and coastal defence roles, as well as forming part of the Royal Naval Reserve.[5] In the 1850s, the Admiralty took over the Coast Guard;[6] officers stationed in Ireland complained that their naval career was retarded relative to those in England.[7]

The Irish Free State was formed in December 1922, and Tom Casement (brother of Roger Casement) tried unsuccessfully to establish a new Irish coast guard.[8] In late 1923 Casement instead became first Inspector of a new Coast Life Saving Service (CLSS).[8] In 1927, before the Irish Naval Service had been formed, the Admiralty discussed the possibility of CLSS participation in minesweeping of the Treaty Ports.[9] During the Emergency declared in the Second World War, the Department of Defence established a separate Coast Watch after the use of the CLSS to keep watch for belligerent ships and aircraft was vetoed by the Department of Industry and Commerce, which ran the CLSS.[10]

The CLSS was later renamed the Coast and Cliff Rescue Service (CCRS).[5] In 1979 there were 54 stations, 51 equipped with breeches buoys and three only with ladders for cliff rescue.[11] A 1990 inquiry into air sea rescue chaired by retired Garda Commissioner Eamonn Doherty recommended transferring responsibility from the Irish Air Corps to a new emergency service.[12][13] The then government accepted the recommendation in August 1990,[14] and the service was established in the then Department of the Marine by minister Michael Woods in May 1991 under the name "Slánú — The Irish Marine Emergency Service" (IMES),[13][5] and subsumed the CCRS. In February 2000 the name was changed to the Irish Coast Guard following the wishes of many of its personnel.[5][15] The spelling "Coast Guard" (as opposed to "Coastguard") is intended to hark back to its nineteenth-century origins; His Majesty's Coastguard (HMCG) adopted the single-word spelling in 1925, after the Free State had separated from the United Kingdom.[5]

In 2012, Fisher Associates conducted a value-for-money review of the Coast Guard and recommended closing the stations at Valentia and Malin Head.[16][17] The Fisher report was criticised by Coast Guard management and reviewed by an Oireachtas committee,[16][18] prompting a revised report in 2013.[19]

Operations edit

Role and status edit

The Coast Guard operates as a division of the Department of Transport under the Irish Maritime Administration (IMA).[20] Other sections of the IMA include the Marine Survey Office and Maritime Services Division.[20]

A IRCG Land Rover on display during National Services Day

The Coast Guard is responsible for:[21]

  • Search and rescue
  • Marine communications network
  • Marine safety awareness
  • Pollution and salvage response in the marine environment (the Marine Rescue Co-ordination Centre (MRCC) in Dublin coordinates all pollution & salvage control in the Irish Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ)).

Unlike coastguard models in some other countries, in Ireland, it is not part of the Irish Defence Forces. It does however call on their assistance through the use of its Air Corps and Naval assets. Also, while in some jurisdictions fisheries patrols are the responsibility of the Coast Guard, in Ireland, these are carried out by the Irish Air Corps and Irish Naval Service and drug smuggling patrols by the Irish Air Corps, Customs, Gardaí and the Naval Service. (However, all the above government services can at any time request assistance from each other when needed).[citation needed]

Members edit

The Irish Coast Guard is a civilian agency, members are not part of the Defence Forces and thus are forbidden from carrying any type of weapons and have no security or defence duties in respect of national police or defence.[citation needed]

Coast Guard personnel include full-time paid employees,[22] and unpaid volunteers.[23] For example, a member of the Coast Guard, Caitriona Lucas, who died while on a rescue/recovery mission in County Clare in 2016, was a volunteer.[24]

Not all Irish Coast Guard members have enforcement powers – only some officers under warrant.[citation needed]

Stations edit

The IRCG has 44 operating bases or units across Ireland.[25] Its administrative offices are at Leeson Lane in Dublin.[25]

Equipment edit

A Sikorsky S-92 from CHC Helicopter
Irish Coast Guard station, Doolin

The IRCG operate rescue boats, rigid inflatable boats and other search and rescue vehicles and equipment from coastal stations around Ireland.[citation needed]

The IRCG also has a contract with a private company for Sikorsky Search and Rescue helicopters operating from Dublin, Waterford, Shannon and Sligo bases. These helicopters are contracted from CHC Helicopter—a controversial contract [26] and costs the state €50 million per year.[27] A similar SAR contract involving CHC was cancelled in the UK in 2012 as a result of alleged 'irregularities'.[28] Under the €500 million contract, from 2010, a previous fleet of Sikorsky S-61N helicopters were replaced with five newer Sikorsky S-92 helicopters.[27][29] One of the new S-92 helicopters is located at each of the four IRCG bases, with one additional aircraft being rotated between bases.[30][31]

The first operational S-92 helicopter arrived in Ireland in January 2012 and given the registration EI-ICG.[32] After a period of training and pilot conversion (from the S-61N type), this helicopter was given call-sign "RESCUE115" and replaced the S-61N that was previously based at Shannon.[33] The five S-92's were given the registrations EI-ICG, EI-ICU, EI-ICA, EI-ICR, EI-ICD – with the last letter of each registration spelling out "GUARD".[34]

As of late 2016, the S-92s were deployed as: Callsign Rescue 118 operating from Sligo,[35] Rescue 117 operating from Waterford,[36][37] Rescue 115 operating from Shannon,[36][37] and Rescue 116 operating from Dublin.[38] While EI-ICG was delivered as "factory new" from Sikorsky in the US,[30] the other S-92 aircraft were ex-UK Coastguard equipment.[34] Following the 2017 crash of EI-ICR (Rescue 116), a newer S-92 replacement was sourced by CHC from Australia, and registered as EI-ICS.[39]

In mid-2020, the Irish Coast Guard launched a tender for a future SAR aviation contract, to supersede the (2010) CHC agreement.[40][41] In May 2023 Bristow Ireland was announced as the preferred bidder in a ten-year contract worth €670 million.[42] The contract provides for six AW189 helicopters operating from Dublin, Shannon, Sligo and Waterford, and two Super King Air aircraft operating from Shannon Airport. Bristow is due to begin transitioning to the new contract from late 2024.[43][44][45]

Incidents edit

  • In July 1999, an Air Corps helicopter crashed: The four crew members of a Dauphin helicopter, on SAR duties, died shortly after midnight on 2 July 1999, when their helicopter hit a sand dune in thick fog at Tramore Beach, County Waterford, while returning from a successful rescue mission.[46]
  • In September 2016, a Coast Guard volunteer, Caitriona Lucas, died while on a rescue/recovery mission in County Clare.[24] In November 2023, the inquest jury returned a verdict of misadventure, and recommended improvements to safety management.[47]
  • In March 2017, RESCUE 116 crashed providing cover for another Coast Guard helicopter[48] off the coast of County Mayo. Captain Dara Fitzpatrick was recovered from the water at around 7 am on 14 March in a critical condition, and transferred to Mayo University Hospital where she was pronounced dead. Captain Mark Duffy was recovered from the wreckage on the 26 March. Winch crew Paul Ormsby and Ciarán Smith remain missing.[49][50]

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ a b "History of the Irish Coast Guard". Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. 9 July 2019. Retrieved 27 July 2020.
  2. ^ "Senior Officials Appointed to the Irish Coast Guard". 28 July 2023. Retrieved 26 April 2024.
  3. ^ "The Marine Search and Rescue Region (IMSRR)". Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. Retrieved 21 February 2015.
  4. ^ "The Marine Search and Rescue Region". Department of Transport. Retrieved 11 December 2014.
  5. ^ a b c d e "About the Irish Coast Guard". Department of Transport, Tourism And Sport. Retrieved 16 March 2017.
  6. ^ "Coast-Guard Service Act, 1856". Irish Statute Book. Retrieved 16 March 2017.
  7. ^ "Reports of Inspecting Commanders of Coast-Guard in Ireland on Question of Supersession". Sessional papers. 1847. HC (492) 56 213. Retrieved 16 March 2017.
  8. ^ a b Lincoln, Siobhán. "The Ardmore Rocket Crew". The Ardmore Journal. Waterford County Museum. Retrieved 16 March 2017.
  9. ^ "Irish Free State Coastal Defence from Minutes of Defence Conference - 26 April 1927". Documents on Irish Foreign Policy. RIA. 26 April 1927. Retrieved 16 March 2017.
  10. ^ Kennedy, Michael J. (2008). Guarding Neutral Ireland: The Coast Watching Service and Military Intelligence, 1939–1945. Four Courts Press. p. 23. ISBN 9781846820977.
  11. ^ "Written Answers. 480. — Coast Life-Saving Service". Dáil Éireann Debates. 17 October 1979. Vol.316 No.1 p.49 cc.62–69. Retrieved 19 March 2017.
  12. ^ "Garda Commissioner Eamonn Doherty (Ireland)". Lifesaving Foundation. Retrieved 16 March 2017.
  13. ^ a b "Merchant Shipping Bill, 1991: Second Stage". Seanad Éireann Debates. Oireachtas. 4 March 1992. Vol.131 No.12 p.6 cc.012–3. Retrieved 16 March 2017.
  14. ^ Ross, Shane (15 November 2016). "Irish Coast Guard Issues". Dáil Éireann proceedings: Written answers. Retrieved 21 March 2017.
  15. ^ "Written Answers. - Coast Guard Service". Dáil Éireann Debates. Oireachtas. 10 February 2000. pp. Vol.514 No.2 p. cc.450–1. Retrieved 16 March 2017.
  16. ^ a b Buckley, Dan (23 October 2012). "Coast Guard criticises 'failings' of draft report". Irish Examiner. Retrieved 20 March 2017.
  17. ^ Fisher Associates (April 2012). "Irish Coast Guard: Value for Money Review; Final Report" (PDF). Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, Ireland. Retrieved 20 March 2017.
  18. ^ Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communications (24 October 2012). "Review of Irish Coast Guard Service: Discussion". Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees (. Retrieved 20 March 2017.
  19. ^ Fisher Associates (February 2013). "Irish Coast Guard; Supplementary Review; Final Report" (PDF). Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. Retrieved 20 March 2017.
  20. ^ a b "Who's Who in Fishing Safety". Health & Safety Authority. Retrieved 11 September 2021. The Irish Maritime Administration (IMA) [..] Is a division of the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport and [..] consists of the Marine Survey Office (MSO), the Irish Coast Guard (IRCG), Policy and Legislation, Ports and the Maritime Services Division
  21. ^ "The Irish Coast Guard - The roles of the Irish Coast Guard". Government of Ireland. Retrieved 11 September 2021.
  22. ^ "Got what it takes? The Irish Coast Guard are hiring again". The Journal. 22 March 2014.
  23. ^ "Enrolment of Volunteers - List of Coast Guard Volunteer Units". Department of Transport. Retrieved 14 September 2016. The Coast Guard Volunteer Services are constantly enrolling new members [...] these are unpaid positions.
  24. ^ a b "Investigations into death of Coast Guard volunteer under way". Irish Times. 13 September 2016.
  25. ^ a b "The Irish Coast Guard".
  26. ^ "Value of €500m rescue services deal questioned - Helicopter firm embroiled in UK bidding row". Independent News & Media. 13 February 2011.
  27. ^ a b Lorna Siggins (17 June 2013). "Irish Coast Guard search and rescue fleet renewal extended". The Irish Times. Retrieved 6 September 2013.
  28. ^ Angus Stickler (8 June 2012). "Corporate Watch - Search and rescue helicopter contracts awarded despite police probe". The Bureau of Investigative Journalism. Archived from the original on 12 June 2012. Retrieved 31 October 2013.
  29. ^ "New Irish Search and Rescue Contract Signed". 20 September 2010. CHC Helicopter. Archived from the original on 13 April 2014. Retrieved 6 May 2014.
  30. ^ a b "New Search and Rescue (SAR) helicopters arrive into Shannon". The Clare Herald. 13 June 2013. Archived from the original on 17 October 2013. Retrieved 6 September 2013.
  31. ^ "Helicopter involved in Mayo search operation checked for safety in January". Irish Times. 14 March 2017. Retrieved 14 March 2017.
  32. ^ "Department of Transport Press Release – Irish Coast Guard Takes New Sikorsky S-92 On Board" (PDF). Department of Transport. Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 October 2013. Retrieved 31 October 2013.
  33. ^ Greg Harkin (14 August 2013). "Woman pilots make Coast Guard history". Retrieved 6 September 2013.
  34. ^ a b "CHC celebrates delivery of new IRCG helicopter but loses part of its UK contract". Flying in Ireland Magazine. 1 March 2012. Archived from the original on 7 March 2014. Retrieved 1 March 2014.
  35. ^ "Sligo Airport - Search & Rescue - Irish Coast Guard". Sligo Airport Website. Retrieved 1 March 2014.
  36. ^ a b "All female Search and Rescue Helicopter crew". Southern Star. August 2013. Archived from the original on 13 August 2019. Retrieved 1 March 2014.
  37. ^ a b "Irish Coast Guard Rescue Helicopter Service - New Arrival to the Fleet". Munster Fire and Rescue. Archived from the original on 1 March 2014. Retrieved 1 March 2014.
  38. ^ "Rescue 116: The award-winning crew who helped save the lives of many". Independent News & Media. 14 March 2017.
  39. ^ "Helicopter History Database - EI-ICS (c/n 92-0259)". Retrieved 16 January 2018.
  40. ^ "Irish Coast Guard: Search and Rescue (SAR) Aviation Project". DTTAS. Retrieved 5 September 2020.
  41. ^ "European Search and Rescue (SAR) Competition Bonanza: Northern Norway SAR, Netherlands SARHC, Ireland SAR Aviation and UK's UKSAR2G". Aerossurance. 11 May 2020. Retrieved 5 September 2020.
  42. ^ "New Irish Coast Guard service provider reaches deal on transfer of staff with two unions". Irish Times. 15 January 2024. Retrieved 22 February 2024.
  43. ^ "First glimpse of new Irish Coast Guard Aircraft Fleet". Irish Government. 16 February 2024. Retrieved 22 February 2024.
  44. ^ "Bristow Takes Significant Step Towards Next Generation of Coast Guard Search and Rescue Aviation Services in Ireland". Bristow Group. 7 February 2024. Retrieved 22 February 2024.
  45. ^ "2Excel partners with Bristow on revamped Irish Coast Guard aviation service". 2Excel Aviation. 22 August 2023. Retrieved 22 February 2024.
  46. ^ "Tributes paid to Air Corps helicopter crew who died in Tramore crash 20 years ago". Irish Times. 2 July 2019. Retrieved 9 December 2021.
  47. ^ "Verdict of death by misadventure returned at Caitriona Lucas inquest". The Journal. 30 November 2023. Retrieved 1 December 2023.
  48. ^ "Coast Guard member rescued from helicopter crash dies". RTÉ News. 14 March 2017.
  49. ^ "First victim of Coast Guard helicopter crash named as Dara Fitzpatrick". Irish Times. 14 March 2017.
  50. ^ "Mini-robot now key to search as investigators fear Rescue 116 helicopter hit rocks in mystery crash". Independent News & Media. 20 March 2017.

External links edit