A non-swimmer has received a second national bravery award for the role he played in river rescue operations.
Basil Harte has played a leading role in three rescue operations that involved taking people from the Garavogue River in Sligo.
“I can’t even swim. Because I live beside the river I know where you can go and where you can’t go,” he said.
He was awarded his first national bravery award in 2002 for his part in the rescue of a woman from the river more than 20 years ago.
Mr Harte was with his family in Farmleigh House in the Phoenix Park, Dublin, yesterday to receive another bravery award for his role in rescuing three women from the Garavogue in February 2017.
However, he also revealed that he and a neighbour took a young man from the river in February last year.
Recalling the rescue of the young man, Mr Harte said they could not get into the river at the time. “It was so high it would wash any man away,” he said.
After managing to get a lifebelt out to the man they jumped onto a ledge, hung over the railings and brought him in.
I don’t want an award for getting the young man out of the water. The award for me is that he is alive.
His first bravery award was for helping a garda and another local man pull a woman from the river in February 1999.
“I met her one day this year. She came up and thanked me,” he said.
His latest award – another certificate of bravery, is for the part he played with two gardaí in taking three women to safety.
He had already entered the water when the two gardaí came on the scene.
“We got the first girl out and the guards pulled her up onto a sandbank and I brought the two other girls back down the river to get them out.”
There were 20 awards presented by the Dáil’s Ceann Comhairle, Seán Ó Fearghaíl, including one posthumous honour, to individuals who risked their lives to help others in danger.
The annual honours are awarded by Comhairle na Míre Gaile – the Deeds of Bravery Council, founded in 1947 so the State can recognise exceptional acts of bravery.
“It is important to recognise the sacrifices made by people whose selflessness can serve to remind us of our duty of care to one another, said Mr Ó Fearghaíl, who is the council’s chair.
Among the recipients were Garda David Currivan and Garda Cathal McGeoghan, who were each awarded a bronze medal and certificate of bravery for taking on two masked men armed with a metal bar and a meat cleaver when they robbed a shop in Dublin in November 2015.
Garda McGeoghan is currently based with the United Nations in Cyprus and Garda Currivan is attached to the roads’ policing unit in Terenure in Dublin. The two officers were in a patrol car when alerted about the robbery in Crumlin.
“As we arrived the two men ran from the shop. We got out of the patrol car and told them to stop – they then raised their weapons and approached us. I managed to deploy my pepper spray,” said Garda McGeoghan.
Garda McGeoghan ran after the two men who began discarding the proceeds of their robbery together with their disguises but retained their weapons. Garda Currivan drove ahead of one of the suspects and tried to block his escape.
The man with the iron bar tried to strike Garda McGeoghan who was forced to use his pepper spray again to defend himself. Garda Currivan pursued the second man who attempted to strike him on the head with the meat cleaver.
The man with the meat cleaver went back to Garda McGeoghan who used his pepper spray on him while lying on top of the other robber. He then tried to escape through the gardens of nearby houses but was later apprehended with the help of the Garda Air Support Unit.
“The incident showed that the training we received stood to us. We saw something happening; the training kicked in and we acted straight away,” said Garda McGeoghan.