Simon Coveney briefed on manpower issues at Haulbowline naval base

Defence Minister Simon Coveney made his first official trip in his new role to the Naval Service's base at Haulbowline Island, Co Cork where he was briefed on manpower issues and attended a commissioning ceremony for new officers.
Simon Coveney briefed on manpower issues at Haulbowline naval base
The naval vessel LE Samuel Beckett P 61 berthed at haulbowline naval base Picture: Eddie O'Hare
The naval vessel LE Samuel Beckett P 61 berthed at haulbowline naval base Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Defence Minister Simon Coveney made his first official trip in his new role to the Naval Service's base at Haulbowline Island, Co Cork where he was briefed on manpower issues and attended a commissioning ceremony for new officers.

Mr Coveney is no stranger to the base, as he previously served as Minister for Defence from 2014 – 2016. The manpower crisis in the Defence Forces has since become acute and in particular is hitting the navy hard. Nearly 13 months ago it was forced to tie-up two ships because it didn't have the crews to man them.

Mr Coveney said his priority in his new role will be to address this issue.

The four new officers' had their 22-months of training interrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic, which changed their day-to-day routine and they were required to listen to a number of lectures in remote locations.

They were also involved in aiding the HSE fight against the virus, helping to navigate flagship LÉ Eithne to Cork where she spent three months training health officials on PPE use and storing and moving essential supplies on their behalf.

One of the new officers, Brian Barrins, previously worked as a cyber-security analyst with Accenture.

The Galway man's older brother, Mark is also an officer in the Naval Service.

The Co Dublin-born officer Patrick Biggar graduated from Maynooth University with a Business Degree in 2016 and he's an avid cyclist and skier.

Christopher Newman, also from Co Dublin, initially studied History and Archaeology in UCD before pursuing a Professional Masters in Education and subsequently a career as a history and geography teacher. He has competed in rowing at a national level and volunteered for many years as an instructor for Malahide Sea Scouts.

The fourth new officer, Stephen Smith, grew up in his family's adventure centre in Co Mayo and spent most of his summers in the water.

He became a beach lifeguard with Mayo County Council and an instructor with Water Safety Ireland. His father is a Commandant in the Army Reserve.

The commissioning ceremony was also attended by Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces, Vice Admiral Mark Mellett and the Flag Officer Commanding the Naval Service, Commodore Michael Malone.

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