Taoiseach Micheál Martin has paid tribute to the men and women of the Naval Service for their professionalism over the years at a ceremony at Naval Base HQ on Haulbowline Island in Cork Harbour to mark the 75th anniversary of the founding of the service.
Mr Martin was piped aboard the LE Samuel Beckett together with Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces, Vice Admiral Mark Mellett DSM and Commodore Michael Malone Flag Officer Commanding the Naval Service before he inspected a guard of honour on board the ship.
“I just want to say how privileged I am as Taoiseach to be here this morning and throughout the morning to honour the 75th anniversary of the establishment of the Irish Naval Service which in many ways personified the growing and evolving independence of the emerging Irish State.
"I want to pay tribute to the Naval Service which has performed outstanding duties on behalf of the Irish people in many areas, humanitarian mission, fishery protection, drug smuggling interdiction and the modernisation of maritime education through the maritime college here in Ringaskiddy.
“And I want to pay tribute to the generations of people who have served in the Irish Naval Service who served their country so loyally, so diligently and so professionally,” he added in reference to the several thousand men and women who have served in the Naval Service since its founding in 1946.
The Naval Service replaced the Marine Service in 1942, which had been established three years earlier in 1939 as the Marine and Coastwatching Service to protect Ireland's neutrality during World War II with a fleet of six Motor Torpedo Boats (MTBs) and four other assorted craft.
Minister for Defence, Simon Coveney paid tribute to the role of the Naval Service in protecting Ireland's Economic Exclusion Zone since it was extended from 12 nautical miles in 1976 to its present range of 200 nautical miles which makes it one of the largest sea jurisdictions in the European Union.
Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces, Vice Admiral, Mark Mellett DSM spoke of his pride in all those who serve or have served or who support the Naval Service as he recalled some of the operations that the Naval Service has participated in over the years.
These included search and recovery operations in the aftermath of the Betelgeuse disaster in Bantry Bay in 1979, the terrorist attack on Air India Flight 187 off the West Cork coast in 1985 well as the interception of arms shipments aboard the Claudia in 1973 and the Marita Ann in 1984.
Vice Admiral Mellett also recalled the role of the Naval Service in combating drug smuggling beginning with the first major interception of the Brime in 1993 and later successes involving the apprehension of Dances with Waves and Makayabella, all off the Cork coast.
“The selfless manner that the members of the Naval Service meet all challenges, head on reflects, the spirit of the generations that preceded them and inspire the next to make a difference,” said Vice Admiral Mellett.
Earlier, President Michael D Higgins sent a message in which he praised the Naval Service for its role in Operation Sophia, the EU Naval Mission in 2017 and 2018 aimed at countering human trafficking in the Mediterranean by disrupting the people smuggling routes set up by criminal networks
Taoiseach Micheál Martin, accompanied by the Minister for Defence, Simon Coveney and the Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr Colm Kelleher, then proceeded on board the LE Samuel Beckett as it led a flotilla comprising the LE James Joyce, the LE William Butler Yeats and the LE George Bernard Shaw upriver.
The flotilla, accompanied by Ballycotton RNLI lifeboat, Austin Lidbury as well as RIBS from the Irish Coast Guard, a Revenue Customers cutter and other emergency services, then sailed up to Cork city to mark both the 75th founding of the Naval Service and National Services Day.
Other emergency services including the National Ambulance Service, the Fire Service, the Civil Defence and An Garda Síochána also joined the event at Kennedy Quay near Cork city centre before the vehicles completed a looped circuit of the city to highlight National Services Day.