‘The cliffs are a place of great beauty but great sadness as well’

Coast guard volunteer Thomas Doherty has talked down ‘11 or 12’ people on Cliffs of Moher

Thomas Doherty, a member of the Doolin unit of the Irish Coast Guard: ‘Anybody that has been on the edge has come back for me.’ Photograph: Brian Arthur

Thomas Doherty, a member of the Doolin unit of the Irish Coast Guard: ‘Anybody that has been on the edge has come back for me.’ Photograph: Brian Arthur

 

Thomas Doherty has been a volunteer member of the Doolin unit of the Irish Coast Guard for about 30 years.

In that time he says he has helped to talk down “11 or 12 people” who were contemplating taking their lives along the Cliffs of Moher.

The despairing people encountered on the cliff edge, he says, range “from an 80-year-old woman to a woman in her 40s”.

“Anybody that has been on the edge has come back for me. It is a good success rate actually. I hope it stays that way,” Doherty says. “If they say they want to do it, I ask them to come for a chat.”

As part of his role as an Irish Coast Guard deputy officer, he usually represents the Doolin unit at inquests related to the cliffs, which are held in Ennis.

“The cliffs are a place of great beauty but of great sadness as well,” he says, after attending two separate inquest days over the last month concerning the deaths of four people along the cliffs this year.

Clare County Coroner Isobel O’Dea dealt with three cases from the cliffs on the same day this month, including one of a 28-year-old woman from South Korea who had made the 5,900-mile journey to the renowned beauty spot in July.O’Dea also heard the case of a man in his 20s who travelled from Germany in April.

Power of persuasion

Doherty , who also works as a ranger at the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience, recalled one successful situation he was involved in three years ago, where it took from 10am to 8pm to persuade a man from Manchester to step back.

The most recent “cliffs” inquest held last week concerned the death of a Co Roscommon woman. It heard that Doherty struck up a conversation with the woman on the fortunes of the Roscommon footballers and other talk of the day as they walked from the cliffs entrance at about 9am on June 19th last.

CCTV footage captured the two walking together to the entrance of the cliffs centre where they parted ways, with the woman making her way towards the cliffs.

He said he did not for a second suspect what was to come and that, coincidentally, six days later, he was part of the Irish Coast Guard recovery team that retrieved the woman’s body from waters north of Doolin point.

Body identified

Doherty identified the body as that of the woman he had spoken to six days earlier. At the inquest, the woman’s sister and he embraced as they left the courtroom at the end of the case.

Doherty said that people falling to their deaths at the Cliffs of Moher was not something new. “I was very young, maybe 10 or 12, when I heard of the first one. A man had come down from Dublin,” he said.

Today, there is signage featuring contact details and information for the Samaritans located throughout the Cliffs of Moher visitor experience site and in the meditation room located at the entrance to the site.

If you have been affected by this article, help and support is available from the Samaritans on freephone 116123, or email jo@samaritans.org or phone Childline on 1800-666666.

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