Navy stalwart LÉ Emer sails into the sunset

They came to say goodbye to an old lady who served her country faithfully for 35 years, during which time she sailed the equivalent distance to the moon and back.

Navy stalwart LÉ Emer sails into the sunset

Many memories came flooding back for former crew members of the LÉ Emer as the national anthem was played and pennants were lowered during its decommissioning ceremony in Cork yesterday. Thousands of people had served on her since she came into service in 1978, including her 23 captains, the last being Lieutenant Commander Alan O’Regan.

The ship carried out many successful operations, including capturing IRA gun-running ship, Marita Anne, in 1984. She was also involved in the search and rescue operation in the aftermath of the Fastnet disaster, which claimed the lives of 15 people in 1979.

Commodore Mark Mellett, flag officer commanding the Naval Service, spoke at the decommissioning ceremony of his connections with the ship.

His first appointment as a gunnery officer was on the LÉ Emer in 1979. Three years later, as a diver, he helped clear the St Bedan coal ship from the Foyle after the IRA had scuttled it to block maritime entry to Derry.

“This ship has served her country enormously over the past 35 years and all of her crew, both serving and retired, can be very proud of their hard work and effort throughout her life in the Naval Service,” he said.

Susan Steele, chairman of the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority, said the LÉ Emer and its crew “have done an incredible job in all weathers all year around in fishery protection duties”.

Also in attendance at the ceremony was its first captain John “Jackie” Jordan.

She was the first Naval Service ship to carry out UNIFIL resupply mission in 1979 to South Lebanon and completed 14 such missions up to 2001.

The ship has been twinned with Cork City since 2000. Its crew have been involved in numerous fund-raising initiatives for local charities.

Dominic Daly has been appointed by the Department of Defence to sell off the vessel at a public auction which will take place in Carrigaline next month. It’s expected it will make several hundred thousand euro.

Commodore Mellett said the Naval Service will receive the ship’s replacement, LÉ Samuel Beckett, in February.

Ship to shore

* Sailed 518,000 nautical miles.

* Boarded more than 6,000 trawlers.

* Arrested 19 trawlers. Issued warnings to 146 boats.

* 1979: Assisted with rescue following the Fastnet disaster.

* 1984: Captured IRA gunning-running ship.

* 1985: Assisted in search following Air India disaster.

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