4 September 20201
By Tom Collins
Ireland has a ‘Naval Service’, not a Navy. It is small, but important, and it’s HQ is in Cork Harbour.
Today the Minister for Defence, Mr. Simon Coveney, T.D. and the Taoiseach, Mr. Micheál Martin, T.D., led an event in Cork to mark the 75th Anniversary of the Irish Naval Service. They were joined by the Lord Mayor of Cork City, the Cathaoirleach of Cork County Council, the Chief of Staff, the Secretary General of the Department of Defence and the Flag Officer Commanding the Naval Service in celebrating this momentous occasion for the Naval Service.
Beginning in Haulbowline Naval Base, the Minister, the Taoiseach and the accompanying party sailed from Haulbowline on-board the LÉ Samuel Beckett with the Taoiseach taking the salute during a fleet review. LÉ Samuel Beckett arrived into the City of Cork at around 1 o’clock this afternoon. As the Naval Service Ship entered the Port of Cork there was a fly-past by the Air Corps.
The Naval Service was welcomed to the city by a blue lights Guard of Honour from service colleagues such as the Irish Coast Guard and the RNLI in acknowledgement of the Naval Service’s diamond jubilee and to mark National Services’ Day. The work of the Naval Service and the wider Defence Forces in support of frontline services is an important aspect of their role in general, and in particular over the last 18 months.
This afternoon from 3pm, Naval Service ships will be open to the public, in line with all Covid restrictions, as a ‘Meet the Fleet’ experience.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin said: “I am honoured to be able to celebrate such an important milestone in the history of the Irish Naval Service today.
As an island nation, the sea is of central importance to Ireland and her people, and I thank members and their families for the dedication and service shown during a challenging year, and congratulate the Naval Service for all its achievements over 75 years.”
Speaking on the day, the Minister for Defence thanked all Naval Service personnel past and present for their commitment and professionalism, and acknowledged their families for their support. The Minister also expressed his congratulations to the Naval Service saying, “I was proud to return as Minister for Defence in 2020. That pride is swelled by the opportunity afforded me to congratulate you and to celebrate with you on your 75th Anniversary. As well as to acknowledge your achievements over the last 75 years”.
The Chief of Staff, Vice Admiral Mark Mellett, marking the important milestone, which coincides with National Services Day, thanked all members of the Naval Service, for the selfless manner in which they serve, “I am so proud of all who serve, have served and who support the Naval Service. I am honoured to celebrate with you all today on your 75th anniversary. I also would like to acknowledge the work and sacrifice of all our National Services, throughout what has been an extremely challenging year. Today’s joint celebrations reinforce the strong bonds that exist across all our front line services”.
The Secretary-General of the Department of Defence, Jacqui McCrum, added her thanks and congratulations saying “I would like to thank all past and present members of the Naval Service for their service and to acknowledge your tremendous work in support of the national agenda over the past 75 years”.
Facts & Figures
The Naval Service as the State’s principal seagoing agency maintain a constant presence 24 hours a day, 365 days a year throughout Ireland’s enormous and rich maritime jurisdiction, upholding Ireland’s sovereign rights. While the main day to day role of the Naval Service is to provide a fishery protection service in accordance with the State’s obligations as a member of the European Union, it also carries out a number of other non-fishery related tasks such as search and rescue, diving operations, drugs interdiction as well as many more.
The current Flag Officer Commanding Naval Service (FOCNS) is Commodore Michael Malone. Commodore Malone was promoted to his present rank on 26 December 2017.
The Irish government, in May 1939, ordered 2 Motor Torpedo Boats (MTB’s) from Great Britain which were to become Ireland’s first Naval Vessels. The entire process of raising some type of Navy was greatly accelerated by the outbreak of World War II as Ireland needed to have its own Navy to uphold its neutrality. The order for MTBs was increased from 2 to 6 and the Marine and Coastwatching Service was established in September 1939.
By 1941 the Marine Service consisted of 10 craft (6 motor torpedo boats plus 4 assorted vessels) and about 300 all ranks. Their tasks during the war included mine laying, regulation of Merchant Ships, upkeep of navigational aids and fishery protection. At the end of the war in 1945, the Coastwatching Service was disbanded and the Marine side had a reduced role.
In September 1946 the Government decided that the Marine Service should become a permanent component of the Defence Forces. Thus was born the modern day Irish Naval Service.