9 November 2015
By Bryan T. Smyth
The Minister for Defence, Simon Coveney, T.D., in the course of a visit to Malta today, visited L.É. Samuel Beckett currently deployed in the Mediterranean on humanitarian search and rescue operations. Earlier in the day, the Minister met with EU Commissioner Karmenu Vella to discuss key issues in relation to fisheries and the increasing potential of the blue economy to contribute to national recovery and to the wider EU economy. In the afternoon, the Minister visited L.É. Samuel Beckett which is berthed in Valetta for resupply and met with the ship’s captain, Lieutenant Commander Anthony Geraghty, and members of the crew to review the ongoing operation and to commend the important work they are doing in addressing the humanitarian fallout from the migrant crisis in the central Mediterranean. The Minister was accompanied on his visit by Assistant Secretary General Ciaran Murphy and the Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces, Vice Admiral Mark Mellett.
Speaking to the crew on deck of L.É. Samuel Beckett, the Minister said: “While the tempo of operations in this part of the Mediterranean may have declined somewhat in the past few weeks, we cannot become complacent. As the sea condition worsens, there is an increasing risk for all those who embark on the dangerous journey from North Africa to Europe. We must continue to be ever vigilant to their plight and continue to operate to the highest standards to ensure as far as is humanly possible that all those at risk in this sea are rescued.”
L.É. Samuel Beckett replaced L.É. Niamh at the end of September and will continue Ireland’s contribution to the search and rescue mission up to December 2015, subject to ongoing assessment of the crisis and the operational need to continue to provide such assistance. The operation is being conducted in close coordination with the Italian authorities. The vessel will not be replaced on withdrawal but a review of the mission to date and consideration of possible further participation in operations in the Mediterranean next year will be evaluated over the coming months.
L.É. Samuel Beckett with a crew of 59 Naval Service personnel including 4 Defence Forces medics drawn from the Army, Navy and Air Corps is continuing the remarkable work started by L.É. Eithne and continued by L.É. Niamh. To date, L.É. Samuel Beckett has rescued 562 men women and children, bringing the total rescued by Naval Service vessels to date to nearly 8,100.
Addressing the crew directly the Minister said: “The work of the Naval Service to date, here in the Mediterranean, stands as testament to what a small committed country can do if there is the political will to respond. It’s not about being large or small but about commitment to serve. You, the members of this ship’s company, stand witness to the tragedy unfolding here in the Mediterranean. Not alone do you mount important rescue operations and bring hope to those you rescue, but you also focus the continuing attention of Irish and international public opinion on this crisis. I have no doubt, but that in the best traditions of the Naval Service and of the Defence Forces you will continue to do your duty.”
Minister Coveney concluded “Migration is a major challenge confronting the EU and there are no easy answers. However, Ireland is committed to doing its part as a committed member of the Union in responding to that crisis. You are a key part of that national response and, on behalf of myself and the Irish Government, I would like to thank you all for your outstanding work in the Mediterranean to date. I wish you every success for the future and a safe return to your families.”