News of the planned deployment came yesterday as crews from LÉ Eithne, LÉ Niamh and LÉ Samuel Beckett were accorded a civic reception in County Hall for saving the lives of 8,631 men, women and children.
Naval service top brass have been making preparations in recent weeks in anticipation that they will be called on again to aid ‘Operation Pontius,’ supporting the Italian Marine Rescue Co-Ordination Centre in rescuing migrants trying to cross into Europe from Libya.
Mayor of County Cork, Independent councillor John Paul O’Shea said on behalf of the people of Cork he wanted to thank the three ships’ crews for their phenomenal work and dedication.
“This civic reception is just a small token on behalf of the people of Co Cork in recognising the tremendous effort undertaken by the Irish Naval Service. We, as a local authority, are truly proud of each and every single one of the crews who carried out such incredible humanitarian work and to say thank you from the people of Cork.”
Mr O’Shea said that on top of saving lives, the crews treated a number of people suffering from dehydration and burns caused by leaking fluid from the unsuitable vessels in which they attempted to make the crossings.
The naval service flagship, the LÉ Eithne, left Cork harbour on May 15 last under the command of Commander Pearse O’Donnell and 69 crew. During her six-week mission she rescued 3,376 people, of 21 different nationalities, the youngest of which was a two-week old baby.
Following the return of the LÉ Eithne, the LÉ Niamh, commanded by Lieut-Comdr Daniel Wall set out for a 10-week mission. On one single day her crew rescued 370 men, women and children.
There was also the task of the recovery of 39 bodies from the sea after a barge capsized close to them. During her mission LÉ Niamh’s crew rescued more than 4,100 migrants and made history as the first Irish vessel on which a baby was successfully delivered. The baby was named Destiny.
LÉ Samuel Beckett, under the command of Lieut Comdr Anthony Geraghty and his 59 strong crew, was the third ship to take part in the mission rescuing 1,088 people in the waters between Libya and Sicily.
LÉ Eithne captain, Commander Pearse O’Donnell spoke on behalf of the crews and said they were sincerely grateful for the honour. He said such was the nature of the migrants’ plight he believed many wouldn’t have survived without the navy’s intervention.