Irish Coast Guard volunteers are set to get the keys to a US city after marching in its St Patrick’s Day Parade this weekend.
Ten members of the Goleen unit in West Cork — whose members normally march in the local parades in Schull or Ballydehob — jetted out from Cork Airport with Norwegian yesterday to take part in the Portland, Maine parade tomorrow.
They will march alongside a US Coast Guard colour guard down Portland’s Commercial Street before the mayor of Portland, Ethan Strimling, presents them with the keys to the city on the viewing stand.
Goleen unit volunteer, David Williams, said it is their unit’s first time to represent the Irish Coast Guard overseas and they are all really looking forward to the visit: “We are very honoured and proud of this acknowledgement and are keen to nurture and develop ties between our coastal communities.”
The visit is the result of almost 12 months of planning and liaising with several key individuals, including one of the highest ranking officers in the US Coast Guard, Capt John Mauger, the commanding officer of the US Coast Guard Marine Safety Centre and who is due to be conferred as Rear Admiral of the US Coast Guard in Washington next month.
Mr Williams said they wanted to forge links with a US port or seafaring city, and identified Portland, Maine, as a possible option.
He said they reached out to the Irish American Club of Maine, which has been staging the city’s St Patrick’s Day Parade since its foundation in 1973, to begin discussions.
Leading maritime lawyer, Michael Kingston, who is originally from Goleen but now based in London, was lecturing in Cork around the same time and was hosting Capt Mauger, and Dana Eidsness, of the Maine Chamber of Commerce when he heard of the Goleen Coast Guard’s efforts to forge links in the US.
He introduced Capt Mauger and Ms Eidsness to Mr Williams, who invited them to visit the Goleen unit’s base last July. The talks have now resulted in a 10-strong crew from Goleen unit jetting out yesterday.
Travelling with Mr Williams are Tara Chamberlain, Lisa O’Sullivan, Ciara Sheehan, Aisling O’Driscoll, Jeroen Van Der Vlugt, Colin Wiseman, as well as Patrick and Dawn Little, and their son, Jed.
Mr Kingston said it is an example of how the new Norwegian route between Cork and Boston/Providence can help communities on both sides of the Atlantic forge strong links.
The Goleen coast guard unit is due to visit a fire rescue boat base in Portland’s sprawling port area on Sunday before visiting the Maine US Coast Guard base on Monday.
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