Taoiseach sends off LE Eithne crew leaving for Mediterranean

Enda Kenny applauds Irish ‘humanitarian personality’ as ship leaves on aid mission

Minister for Defence, Simon Coveney paid tribute to the Naval Service for its professionalism in preparing the LE Eithne for such a major humanitarian mission in just five days. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Minister for Defence, Simon Coveney paid tribute to the Naval Service for its professionalism in preparing the LE Eithne for such a major humanitarian mission in just five days. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has expressed confidence that the LE Eithne will play an important role when it joins the European effort to rescue the thousands of refugees trying to cross the Mediterranean.

The LE Eithne will spend a week sailing to the Mediterranean where she will liaise with the Italian authorities to assist in the rescue of refugees fleeing from North Africa through Libya.

Speaking to the crew of the LE Eithne as they prepared to leave the Naval Service headquarters in Haulbowline in Cork Harbour, Mr Kenny highlighted Ireland’s familiarity with such tragedies.

“It is in our history and personality and in our DNA in Ireland having dealt with coffin ships after the time of the famine and the Great Hunger. The humanitarian personality of Ireland is extraordinary.”

Standing aboard the deck of the LE Eithne after being given a guided tour of the ship by her captain, Commander Pearse O’Donnell, Mr Kenny spoke to the 68 strong crew of the challenge they will face.

“The people that you will be dealing with currently are make their way to the Libyan shore with a dream to either escape from very difficult circumstances or to find a better place for their families who are destitute.

“We are very proud on behalf of the Irish people that this crew here is going to assist - it was a privilege for Ireland to be able to offer a fully-equipped navy vessel to assist with this humanitarian crisis.

Minister for Defence, Simon Coveney paid tribute to the Naval Service for its professionalism in preparing the LE Eithne for such a major humanitarian mission in just five days.

“This is a first significant overseas mission for the Irish Naval Service and, as a country and a Government, we have huge confidence in you to do a professional, compassionate and courageous job,” he said.

“You are leaving Cork on a beautiful sunny morning with the sun on your backs - that is not going to be the story of the next ten weeks when you will be at the front line in saving lives in the Mediterranean.

“You will undoubtedly be dealing with trauma and tragedy out there - unfortunately, you are as likely to pick bodies out of the water as you are to pick up desperate people looking to be saved.

“You will be helping people who are desperate enough to leave their homes, flee their countries and be pushed onto vessels that are not fit to go to see by people traffickers who abuse and exploit them.

“But you will be partnership with your Italian colleagues and perhaps your British colleagues - this is a European effort to save lives, babies, children, women, men in very difficult tragic maritime conditions.”

Cdr O’Donnell said the crew of the LE Eithne were proud to travel to the Mediterranean representing the Irish State.

“We will do that in the name our country and in the name of our culture and in the proud tradition of the defence forces and we will do it under our Irish flag which will fly high on the mast every day.”

Search and Rescue

Upon arrival in Italian waters on May 23rd, the LE Eithne will provide a search and rescue capability and undertake humanitarian rescue operations in line with Section 348 of the Defence Act 1954.

The ship will patrol in conjunction with the Italian Navy and the Italian coastguard, operating from an Italian port which has yet to be finalised and will disembark any rescued refugees at a nominated Italian port.

Operations Director Lt Shane Mulcahy said the LE Eithne will have two army medics as well as two naval service medics on board and will have capacity to rescue and accommodate up to 400 people.

The ship is stocked with humanitarian provisions including food, water, medicines and other supplies including nappies and every refugee will be medically assessed upon coming aboard.

“This is a huge opportunity for the Naval Service in terms of having a ship deploy overseas on a humanitarian mission like this - it shows the country what we are capable of,” said Lt Mulcahy.

“Ireland is a helpful nation at the best of times and we will effectively act as ambassadors down there, help rescue as many people as we can, and play our part and each member of the crew is very proud of that.”