At the age of 19, Dermot Cosgrove had a taste for adventure, and the call of la Légion Étrangère brought him to France, over the next six years he served with great pride and distinction across the globe; including service in the First Gulf War. He even served twice in Somalia with UNTAF & UNOSOM, while there he met his fellow countrymen deployed with the Irish Defence Forces. Although he has long hung up his kepi blanc, this native of Ennis has continued to work as a security consultant for over twenty years mainly in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia; he also has combined his two lifelong loves of hiking and birdwatching into a guided tour business, where clients can avail of his expert ornithology knowledge and his vast walking wisdom by joining him on tours in Ireland and across Europe.
The loss of loved one is one of the most tragic experiences which can befall a family. If that loved one is not recovered, then the grieving process can be made all the more difficult on those left behind. There is in Cork, a dedicated team of volunteers who have since their foundation provided hundreds of families with the solace of having their loved one returned to them.
Ever Present Danger. The smoke is acrid, thick and hot. It forms an oppressive layer above the lurid yellow helmets of the firefighting team. Heat radiates from the burning fire in the corner of the cabin in front of them. The noise of the water as it bounces of the deckhead and deck is deafening, the steel structure reverberates and the team leaders shouts out his commands through the life persevering facemask of his breathing apparatus. All commands have a purpose, each given with an intensity befitting the seriousness of the situation; while each response is repeated quickly and verbatim, once the command has been executed the team leader is informed immediately. There is no place for an individual here; only by working as a team will these five sailors fight their way through hatches and down ladders, deeper into the burning vessel they press on, negotiating the total darkness to find the seat of the fire. Their shipmates’ lives depend upon it.
Something in the Water.
There must be something in the water that nourishes writers on this Great Island of ours, as it has such an abundance of them. Perhaps, as the Lee flows along, it gathers stories from its many tributaries and courses, tumbling them in its stream as it flows ever onward on its journey to the Atlantic. Or maybe it’s the nature of living on the harbour, where for centuries ships have sailed and sheltered as the flow of commerce from across the nation has funnelled goods and people to its quaysides; then onward to new horizons waiting out past Roches point.
Something draws them to come to rest, like so many grains of sand, onto the shores of Cobh. This never-resting, ever-changing harbour has borne witness to the heartache of the emigrant and the excitement of unknown adventures for those drawn to a life on the ocean. Cobh’s every corner is etched with history and the endless search for fresh possibilities seems to stimulate the creativity of the local writers. They wait like Heaney at his desk, ‘Between my finger and my thumb, The squat pen rests. I’ll dig with it.’, and what a range of stories our local writers unearth in their digging.
A Changed World.
In 1919, the war to end all wars was over. The 19th of January saw the start of peace negotiations in Paris, which would culminate in the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in June. This momentous year saw the drafting of the covenant of the League of Nations, the surrender and scuttling of the German high seas fleet in Scapa Flow. It also on the 21st of January saw the first Dáil sit in the Mansion House in Dublin, where they declared Irish Independence in fulfilment of the goals of the grand heroic failure of the 1916 Easter Rising. Also on that fateful day in Soloheadbeg, volunteers of the 3rd Tipperary Brigade under the command of Seán Treacy and Dan Breen, ambushed and shot two constables of the Royal Irish Constabulary. The first two dead men of an estimated 1,400 deaths between 1919 and 1921. While most of the fighting occurred on land across Ireland, the sea had a major role to play in both the Rising and the War of Independence.
Lonely Edge of Europe.
Ireland holds a geostrategic maritime position on the lonely edge of Europe, facing out into the North Atlantic where the European and North American sea lanes veritably bustle with all manner of shipping. At the turn of the century, Ireland's seas and maritime domain where under the firm control of the British Empire and the might of the Royal Navy. The ports and deep sheltered harbours of Cork, Berehaven and Lough Swilly, protected by massive forts and coastal artillery batteries, had played their part in centuries of British domination of the high seas and from these ports where shipped troops to fight in Britain's many wars. Many a period of rebelliousness across Ireland was subdued by forces shipped from these Naval installations, helping to underpin the British presence in Ireland as the dark clouds of war gathered on the European horizon. Those clouds burst in August 1914.
From Pontus to Sophia.
Currently, in the Central Southern Mediterranean LÉ Samuel Beckett is on patrol, with fifty-six Irish service personnel embarked. She is the physical embodiment of Ireland’s commitment to a Europe Union (EU) mission which is determined to break apart the callous criminal enterprises which have extracted huge profits from the misery and death of thousands of innocents.With both an EU and United Nations (UN) mandate, the roles begin played by the Irish Navy in EUNAVFOR Med ‘Operation Sophia’, are very different from those which were undertaken by the other Irish vessels who have deployed since 2015, when LÉ Eithne first went south to answer the call from our Italian partners as part of the EU response to what has been interchangeable referred to as, the ’Mediterranean’, ’migration’ or ’refugee crisis’.
Muscle and Blood
LÉ SAMUEL BECKETT is a fine ship. She represents the first of her class and already in her four short years of service she has travelled far and wide, and she has been involved in several substantial and difficult operations. Yet despite all her exceptional engineering, her advanced technology and her substantial firepower; she is but an inanimate collection of steel plates, electronic cables, and marine fuel oils; rendered redundant in all her marvellous sophistication without a crew.A crew of sailors is needed to provide the ship with its muscle and blood; without them, this wondrous craft won’t ever weigh anchor or slip from a quayside.
The metaphorical ink is still wet on this page, as the first responses to the swell rolling into Cork Harbour are felt onboard LÉ SAMUEL BECKETT as she proceeds past the twin forts of Meagher and Davis, towards Roches Point and the Atlantic beyond. This is home for her crew of forty-six, during this next Maritime Defence and Security Operations (MDSO) patrol. She will provide everything they need to sustain themselves during operations off the Irish coast and they in their turn will tend to their ship, while carrying out the duties assigned by Naval Operations Command (NOC).
Changing of the Watch.
In the days of sail, the ships bell would ring out the passing of time and signal to the crew that it was time for the change of the watch. That bell has pealed on Haulbowline and Commodore Hugh Tully, Flag Officer Commanding the Naval Service (FOCNS) has handed over his watch to the newly promoted Commodore Michael Malone, with effect from the 26th of December last.And what a watch it has been, Commodore Tully has given 42 years of exemplary service to the Irish nation. His career spanned some of the most challenging periods of the Navy. Joining the service in 1975 in a class of three cadets, these future Naval Officers were dispatched to Dartmouth in the United Kingdom (UK). They returned from the UK and were sent to sea on LÉ DEIRDRE, which at the time was the only Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) in service, commissioned in 1973, she joined the three venerable minesweepers GRÁINNE, FOLA, BANBA which comprised the entirety of Irelands Naval assets. When he qualified as a Naval watchkeeper, he joined LÉ FOLA as the Navigation and Gunnery officer combined. Rotating ashore he spent some time on Spike Island with the Cadet College, where he was, in fact, the cadet class officer for Commodore Malone.
Nuestra Senora de Gardtoza, January 30th 1990.
The Aer Corps have a motto 'Go Mairidis Beo' its accepted translation is 'So others may live' which echos the US Air Force Pararescue motto. It stands as a statement of commitment from the people who will place the lives of others above their own.It also is very apt to apply it to Irish sailors, who in all weathers will put to sea in small RHIBs, against the fury of the ocean and into the face of the storm to save their fellow mariners who are in peril on the sea.On the night of the 30th of January 1990 the LÉ DEIRDRE was at anchor in Lawrence's Cove in the shelter of Bere Island from severe gale force winds. A terrible drama was unfolding close by, the Spanish fishing vessel, Nuestra Senora de Gardtoza, (Our Lady of Gardtoza) had run aground on rocks near Roancarrigmore Light, North East of Bere Island in Bantry Bay. She was taking water and she had 16 souls onboard.LÉ DEIRDRE received the 'MAYDAY' at 2100hrs and as quickly as she could, the crew weighed anchor and headed out of shelter into the severe gale towards the distressed vessel.
Cobh -The Gateway to Munster.
Cobh is the most beautiful seaside town in Ireland, looking out over the vast Cork harbour where the mighty River Lee runs down to meet the ocean. A place of rich history, which has stunning natural beauty and it is where the world’s largest liners come alongside the Deep Water Quay. The huge floating palaces carrying thousands of tourists each year are vast in scale and they tower over the brightly painted fishing boats which set out from the small little piers and coves with their pots & nets seeking to bring home the bounty of the waters outside the harbour.
The delivery of a professional service by the Navy with a high degree of certainty requires specific fleet standards, quality control and the monitoring of personnel and equipment in action. The standards necessary to operate the fleet, are the ‘bedrock’ of an effective service. Their importance is heightened when the ships taskings become more complex. It was deemed vital to establish an organic operational evaluation capability in order to meet the delivery of these requirements and to this end, in September of 2008, the Flag Officer Commanding Naval Service (FOCNS) directed the establishment of the NS Fleet Operational Readiness, Standards and Training (FORST) section within Naval Operations Command (NOC).The aim of FORST is to facilitate organisational learning and continuous improvement by highlighting best practice and the fleet standardised processes required for the generation, maintenance and evaluation of our operational capability (GMEOC).
Rebuilding Somalia – “The sea is our future”
This article will also feature in the upcoming edition of Emergency Service Ireland magazine.The horn of Africa for decades has been a much-troubled location. Recently Paul O’Brien MA delivered an overview of the conflict in this publication and in this follow-up article, I will focus on the efforts underway to rebuild the country.A lasting peace will be built not only by the absence of conflict but by resetting the foundations of the state; this must bring together many different interconnected parts to provide a place where a functioning government can use its natural resources for the benefit of all its citizens.One of the greatest resources open to Somalia is the sea. They have the longest coastline on mainland Africa and in the middle East, at 3,025km. The waters off Somalia have become synonymous with piracy and lawlessness, yet this will be one of the key areas where economic activity is brought back to the impoverished country, which is balanced on a knife edge with regards to its own security and stability.