47 awarded medals for 'courage, determination'


The courage of three women footballers who rescued a mother and her two children off Westport Quay, Co Mayo, was acknowledged yesterday.

Mary Gill, Helen Mulhall and Ann Heraty, members of Westport United Ladies' Football Club, received bronze medals for marine gallantry arising from the rescue of two children who went into the water in their buggy on July 29th, 2002.

Mr John Walsh, who was working on his boat nearby and assisted at the scene, received a ministerial letter of appreciation. They were among 47 winners who received awards for their "courage, determination and perseverance" from the Minister of State for the Marine, Mr Pat "The Cope" Gallagher, at an awards ceremony in Dublin Castle yesterday.

The Marine Gold Medal for Meritorious Service was awarded for the first time to the four Air Corps crew, Capt Dave O'Flaherty, Capt Mick Baker, Sgt Paddy Mooney and Cpl Niall Byrne, who died off Tramore, Co Waterford, five years ago when returning from a rescue mission in thick fog.

The award comes just two months after the defence wing's last search-and-rescue unit based in Sligo was disbanded by the Government. The citation said the Air Corps carried out 1,140 missions and saved 878 lives, besides providing air ambulance and island relief missions, over 41 years.

The award was accepted by the GoC Air Corps, Brig Gen Ralph James. A separate bronze medal was presented to Cpl Ciarán Smith of the Air Corps for the rescue of a man at Portstewart on the Antrim coast on May 24th, 2003. His pilot, Comdt Shane Bonner, and crew were recognised with a ministerial letter.

The quick reaction of Seán Kinsella (14), Dublin, who rescued a man in difficulty at Ardamine, near Courtown, Co Wexford, on August 10th, 2002, was recognised with a bronze medal.

An Irish Coast Guard helicopter crew under the command of Capt Robert Goodbody risked severe weather conditions, including force-11 north-westerly winds, to rescue a critically injured crewman from the tanker, Princess Eva, off the Donegal coast on January 28th, 2003. Capt Goodbody and his crew received a bronze medal.

A bronze medal was also given to Mr Tony Youlten, who lives in a boat on Lough Corrib, for his response in rescuing 14 students from the water when their canoes were swamped in bad weather on July 30th, 2001.

The rescue of the 11 crew from the schooner, Carrie, off Tory Island, Co Donegal, on June 13th, 2003, was recognised with a ministerial letter of appreciation issued to Irish Coast Guard members Séamus Doohan and Liam Rodgers, islander Peter Rodgers, and other members of the Tory community.

Irish Coast Guard winchman Neville Murphy's efforts to rescue a German woman, who sustained injuries in a cliff fall in west Cork in September 2002, earned him a bronze medal.

The crew of the Polish naval helicopter under command of pilot Waldemar Domanski flew out in "atrocious" weather conditions to evacuate a trainee from the sail training vessel, Asgard II, during a Tall Ships race from Latvia to Germany in August 2003.

These efforts were recognised with a bronze medal for winchman Dariusz Symanski of the Polish Naval Service, who broke his arm against the mast when attempting to board the vessel, and a letter of appreciation for the helicopter crew.

The Minister recognised the contribution of former chief marine surveyor Capt James Kelly, former assistant surveyor Séamus McLoughlin and retired garda Frank Nolan of Irish Water.