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New Achill Coast Guard Station opens

Ring delights Achill Coast Guard with new RIB

Anton McNulty

After years of legal wrangling, the new state-of-the-art Achill Coast Guard station was officially opened by Minister of State, Michael Ring who also announced the sanction of a new €200,000 Rigid Inflatable Boat for the unit.
The new building which also contains the new Achill Fire Station was completed at the cost of approximately €2million in 2007 in a co-funded project involving Mayo County Council, the Department of the Environment and the Department of Transport.
However, the Coast Guard were unable to move into their part of the building until February 2010 because of a legal dispute between Mayo County Council and the Department of Transport.
Minister Ring said he was glad that the dispute was resolved and was delighted to officially open the new station and sanction the grant for the new 8-metre RIB which the unit had lobbied for.
“Today, I am delighted to announce to the Achill Coast Guard that you have got your RIB boat and I hope it will be a great success for you all. I have to say you are a credit to the Coast Guard and do a great job and are entitled to it,” Minister Ring told the large crowd who attended the opening.
The news was greeted with a large round of applause as it had been unexpected and caught many of the local crew by surprise. Noreen Sweeney, the deputy officer in charge of the unit told The Mayo News that this news was the icing on the cake on a wonderful day.
“I am ecstatic, we were not expecting that today. I had hoped we would get it but I thought it may be a year down the road. We are absolutely over the moon, this is fantastic news for the Coast Guard unit in Achill. This is the icing on the cake,” she said.
The unit currently have a Class D Rescue boat but it is limited in what weather it can go out in and this was highlighted in May when it was unable to take part in a mock rescue operation because of the size of the waves.
“We will be able to respond to weather conditions much faster and go out in different weather conditions. At present we are only able to go out in up to force five conditions and unable to go out at night but now we will be able to go out in worse conditions and will be a better unit to serve the area,” explained Noreen.
The opening ceremony was also attended by Chris Reynolds, Director of the Irish Coast Guard, Gerard O’Flynn, Manager of the Irish Coast, Cllr Austin Francis O’Malley, Cathaoirleach of Mayo County Council as well as many officials from the Coast Guard, Department of Transport and Mayo County Council, Achill Fire Brigade and Achill RNLI.
The Achill Coast Guard Unit has 25 voluntary members –including five women – and has been called out on eleven occasions so far this year. In 2009, the unit was awarded the prestigious ‘National Courage Award’ after they were nominated by Patrick Williamson, whom they rescued after he fell into the sea while fishing.
Minister Ring paid tribute to the entire Achill Coast Guard unit as well as the Irish Coast Guard as a whole for their professionalism and dedication to volunteer to save the lives of others.  
“This is a proud day for Unit Officer in Charge Ray Hughes and his local volunteer team, for the people of Achill and surrounding areas. I would like to take this opportunity to compliment the people involved in all sorts of volunteerism activity. This is the year of the volunteer and what would we do in this country without volunteers. I would like to thank the men and women of the coast guard who give up their time for nothing. People would have died without you and I would like to compliment your bravery and commitment to your community and thank you to your service, it is not forgotten,” he said.
The ceremony also included the presentation of medals of service to volunteers who have been members of the Achill Coast Guard and continue to serve. Twelve people were awarded Proof of Service medals, six were awarded 20 years Long Serve Medals, while Ian Scott was awarded a Long Service Medal for 25 years service, Kevin Cleary was awarded for 30 years service and Michael Lally and Seán Gaughan of the Ballyglass Coast Guard unit were awarded a Long Service Medal for 40 years service.