Britain’s Prince William has paid a special tribute to the four Irish Coast Guard air crew who died when Rescue 116 crashed off north Mayo last March.
The prince, who is a trained search and rescue pilot, said the loss is “a tragedy that reaches far beyond the community” in which the four “so gallantly served”, and they “will never be forgotten”.
His tribute has been written for a memorial concert for the four crew – Capt Dara Fitzpatrick, Capt Mark Duffy and winch team Paul Ormsby and Ciarán Smith – which is being held in Cootehill, Co Cavan on Friday.
The prince’s tribute, which has been translated into Irish by the concert organisers, says that “the selfless actions of those who put their lives on the line, for the safety of others, will always draw admiration from an incredibly wide audience”.
“Consequently Ciarán, Dara, Mark and Paul will be mourned far beyond these shores and the lives they led will be an inspiration to many,” he said.
“I am proud to have served as a search and rescue pilot myself and I know how many of the sorties, even though they could be perceived as routine, always have an element of hidden danger,”he added.
“It is the acceptance of this risk, and the desire to carry out their duties in spite of it, which makes the search and rescue crews such a remarkable group of people”.
The prince, who met Paul Ormsby during a joint Irish-British rescue mission, describes lifeboat crews as "another group of selfless emergency responders". The proceeds from a print being sold at the concert by artist John Blakey will be donated to the RNLI.
Mr Blakey, an uncle of the late Capt Fitzpatrick, painted The Piper’s Salutation - Beannú an Phíobaire- after the death of his niece and her three colleagues off Blackrock island on March 14th.
Mr Blakey is chair and director of the Cootehill Arts Festival, which is hosting the concert as part of its programme.
Musicians including Matt Molloy. Tríona Marshall of The Chieftains, Declan O'Rourke, Martin Tourish, Janice Igoe, the Clew Bay Pipe Band and the Roscommon Solstice Choir will perform for free. RTÉ broadcaster Ray D'Arcy is master of ceremonies.
The concert is sold out, but will be preceded by a free recital by the Roscommon Solstice Choir at 6pm in St Michael’s Church, Cootehill. An Irish Coast Guard helicopter is due to perform a fly-past before sunset.
Families of the four crew will be represented at the event, as will Irish Coast Guard crew and RNLI volunteers. President Michael D Higgins has also contributed to the programme.
A gala dinner and auction is also due to take place in Dublin’s Mansion House on September 5th, and three of Capt Fitzpatrick’s sisters are due to participate in a memorial 5km run in honour of their sister at Waterford airport on Saturday, September 16th.
The Dara Fitzpatrick Memorial Run will mark the 10 years that the pilot served with Rescue 117 at the Irish Coast Guard Waterford base, and a special medal has been designed for all runners who finish.
Psychologist Niamh Fitzpatrick said her late sister would be particularly fond of the two charities that will benefit from the run - Touching Hearts and the South-Eastern Mountain Rescue.
Further details of the September 16th run are on website dfrun.ie
Details on the Rescue 116 memorial print, sold in aid of the RNLI, are available from Mr Blakey on email email@example.com