Killaloe Coast Guard receives first community award
By Dan Danaher
THE outstanding contribution of the Killaloe Coast Guard Unit to communities in South-East Clare and North Tipperary has been honoured by a new monthly awards scheme.
Killaloe Coast Guard Unit became the first recipient of the Ballina-Killaloe Community Achievement Awards, which has been set up by The Nenagh Guardian newspaper in association with the Lakeside Hotel, Ballina, Killaloe.
The aim of the awards is to highlight, celebrate and reward the best in local sporting, cultural, voluntary and community achievements by an individual, club, society or organisation.
Coast guard unit area officer, Michael Quigley and deputy area officer, Denis Dillon accepted the award on behalf of the unit at a function on Friday night. Their two sons are also members of the unit.
Mr Quigley said the coast guard service is an integral part of the local community. “The coast guard attends schools in Clare, Limerick and North Tipperary, where it provides information to schoolchildren on how the unit operates and safety on water and non-water-related activities using demonstrations and videos.
“The provision of training for young children on how to enjoy activities is the key towards providing a safer environment in the workplace and on water.
“The Killaloe-Ballina Coast Guard Unit is one of the most active in the country, together with Doolin and Howth. It is all down to the volunteers. Without the volunteers, there would be no unit. All the members take pride in the unit and want to move it forward for the future,” he said.
Training is provided for volunteers who are available on-call 24 hours a day throughout the year. The 26 volunteers are fully qualified in water and land search and rescue, first-aid response and mountain rescue.
Equipment available in the Killaloe Unit includes two emergency response vehicles, communication trailer, two rescue boats – one in the water at all times and the second ready to respond on trailer to the inland rivers and lakes.
Killaloe-Ballina Search and Rescue Unit was formed nine years ago following the drowning of a young teenager, which identified the need for a proper co-ordinated search and rescue service in the locality.
A rescue vessel costing in the region of €89,000 was purchased after a local committee including comedian Brendan Grace, Captain John Gibbons from Waterways Ireland, Killaloe businessman Syl Addley as well as contributions from North and Clare County Council helped raise over €50,000.
The Irish Coast Guard Unit approached the Killaloe-Ballina Search and Rescue Unit to come under its umbrella and two years later, it became the first inland coast guard unit.
Funding is now being provided by the Department of Transport for costs such as fuel and equipment after the Killaloe unit became part of the national emergency group.
In 2008, the unit completed 49 rescues, which dropped slightly to 40 last year.
Mr Quigley said the unit is now used a lot more for emergencies and to assist the gardaí and other frontline personnel in rescues up as far as Lough Corrib. If the Shannon-based coast guard helicopter is called into action, the Killaloe unit if often requested to prepare a landing strip.
In addition to looking after all the lakes on the River Shannon, the 26 volunteers act as a back-up when necessary to the Doolin Coast Guard unit.