Irish Coast Guard honoured for bravery at People of the Year awards

The Irish Coast Guard has been honoured at the People of the Year awards "in recognition of the bravery of the men and women who carry out their duties despite considerable risk to their lives".

The event, now in its 43rd year, is Organised by Rehab and will be broadcast live on RTÉ One from Dublin’s Mansion House at 9.30pm on Sunday.

The award recognises the crew of Rescue 116, who tragically lost their lives off the Mayo coast last March, and volunteer member Caitríona Lucas, who died during an earlier operation.

The community of Erris will also be recognised for their outstanding contribution to the search for the missing Rescue 116 crew and the record search conducted.

Coast Guard helicopter Rescue 116 disappeared on March 14th last year when the aircraft had been providing communications support for an offshore medical assistance operation. On board were Capt Dara Fitzpatrick, Captain Mark Duffy and winch team Paul Ormsby and Ciarán Smith.

Hundreds of volunteers, fishermen, and colleagues supported the emergency services in combing the area for the missing crew.

The bodies of Dara Fitzpatrick and Mark Duffy were recovered in the subsequent searches. However, despite intensive efforts, the bodies of Ciarán Smith and Paul Ormsby have not yet been recovered.

Just six months previously, the Irish Coast Guard community had suffered another loss with the passing of their colleague, volunteer member Caitríona Lucas, who had been participating in a search operation off the coast of Kilkee, Co Clare.

Irish Coast Guard Search and Rescue Operations Manager, Gerard O’Flynn, said: “The selfless actions of those who put their lives on the line, for the safety of others, means Caitríona, Dara, Ciáran, Mark and Paul will remain an inspiration to us all.

Going above and beyond is the norm for members of the Coast Guard service. The fact that these men and women often put their own lives in danger to carry out their duties makes the search and rescue crews such a remarkable group of people. Our colleagues will always be sadly missed and we remain deeply saddened by the depth of this tragedy.

“I would like to pay tribute to the community of Erris who left no stone unturned in supporting one of the most extensive search and investigation operations ever conducted in the area."

Ahead of the awards ceremony, RTÉ TV hosts Gráinne Seoige and Aidan Power met members of the Irish Coast Guard today in the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, Dublin.

Some of the people honoured in the past have been: Panti Bliss, Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe, Robbie Keane, Maurice McCabe and John Wilson, the Hon Mrs Justice Catherine McGuinness, Rory McIlroy, Christy Moore, Paul O’Connell, Brian O’Driscoll, Joanne O’Riordan, Mark Pollock, Katie Taylor and Davitt Walsh.

- Digital Desk

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