|Garda Cósta na hÉireann|
|Headquarters||Leeson Lane, Dublin 2|
|Minister responsible||Paschal Donohoe, Department of Transport|
|Agency executive||Chris Reynolds, Director|
The Irish Coast Guard (IRCG) (Irish: Garda Cósta na hÉireann) is part of the Department of Transport. The Irish Search and Rescue Region, which includes most of the Republic of Ireland and some parts of Northern Ireland is the area over which the Coast Guard has responsibility. This area is bordered by the UK Search and Rescue Region.
Unlike the model used in some other countries, the coast guard in Ireland is not part of the Irish Defence Forces. It does however call on their assistance through the use of its Air Corps and Naval assets. It operates as a Division of the Department of Transport under the Maritime Safety Directorate. Together with the Mercantile Marine Office, the Maritime Safety Directorate comprises two main sections, the Maritime Safety and Marine Environment Division (MSED) and the Marine Survey Office (MSO):
While in some jurisdictions they are the responsibility of the Coast Guard, in Ireland, fisheries patrols are carried out by the Irish Air Corps and Irish Naval Service and drug smuggling patrols by the Irish Air Corps, Customs, Gardaí and the Naval Service. (However, all the above government services can at any time request assistance from each other when needed.) Irish Coast Guard personnel are forbidden from carrying any type of weapons and have no security or defence duties in respect of national police or defence.
The coast guard is however responsible for:
Note that not all Irish Coast Guards have enforcement powers – only some officers under warrant.
The coast guard was first formed in Ireland in 1822, while the island was a constituent part of the United Kingdom. During this period it played revenue protection and coastal defence roles, as well as forming part of the naval reserve. In 1923, following the formation of the Irish Free State, the Coast Lifesaving Service (CLSS) was established. This was later renamed the Coast and Cliff Rescue Service (CCRS), before becoming known as the Irish Marine Emergency Service (IMES) in 1991, and finally being renamed as the Irish Coast Guard (IRCG) in 2000.
The Irish Coast Guard and Blacksod Lighthouse were commemorated on the 70th anniversary of D-Day (the allied invasion of Normandy). Irish Coast Guardsman and lighthouse keeper Ted Sweeney was credited with ensuring the success of the invasion. His weather report from the Coast Guard station convinced General Dwight D Eisenhower to delay the D-Day invasion for 24 hours. In spite of observations taken at various locations by Royal Air Force, Royal Navy and United States Army Air Force meteorologists, Blacksod's was the first land-based observation station in Europe where weather readings could be professionally taken on the prevailing European Atlantic westerly weather systems. While remaining a neutral government during World War II, Ireland continued to supply weather reports to Britain under an agreement in place since Independence. D-Day was scheduled to commence on June 5, 1944, but Sweeney's report of two cold fronts approaching Ireland in quick succession caused Eisenhower to delay the invasion until June 6, 1944 when weather conditions were more favorable.
The IRCG operate a number of contracted Sikorsky Search and Rescue helicopters from bases in Dublin (RESCUE116), Waterford (RESCUE117), Shannon (RESCUE115) and Sligo (RESCUE118).
IRCG helicopters are all contracted from CHC Helicopter and include two types of Sikorsky aircraft. This contract remains controversial and costs the state €50 million per year. A similar SAR contract involving CHC was cancelled in the UK in 2012 as a result of alleged 'irregularities'.
Under the €500 million contract from 2010, the previous fleet of Sikorsky S-61N helicopters were replaced with five newer Sikorsky S-92 helicopters. One of the new S-92 helicopters is located at each of the four IRCG bases, with one spare replacement aircraft being rotated between bases (but focused at either Shannon or Waterford as these hangars are large enough to house two Sikorsky S-92 aircraft).
The first operational S-92 helicopter was delivered to the Irish Coast Guard in January 2012 and given the registration EI-ICG. After a period of training and pilot conversion (from the S-61N type), this helicopter was given call-sign "RESCUE115" and replaced the S-61N that was previously based at Shannon. EI-ICG carried out its first SAROP/RESCUE on its first operational day in July 2012, when it brought a casualty to University College Hospital Galway.
The five S-92's have registrations EI-ICG, EI-ICU, EI-ICA, EI-ICR, EI-ICD – with the last letter of each registration spelling out "GUARD". As of October 2013, all the S-92s are in Ireland, with EI-ICU operating as the duty helicopter at Sligo as "RESCUE118", EI-ICR in Waterford as "RESCUE117", EI-ICD "RESCUE115" based at Shannon, and EI-ICA and EI-ICG operating in Dublin (possibly for conversion training).
While EI-ICG was delivered as "factory new" from Sikorsky in the US, the other S-92 aircraft are ex-UK Coastguard equipment. As of July 2013, the final S-92 aircraft, with registration EI-ICD, was reportedly undergoing repainting and fitting at Shannon. However as of October 2013 two of the S-92 aircraft (EI-ICD and EI-ICU) remain in the "retro" livery of the UK Coastguard – but sporting their Irish registrations.
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