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Minister for Defence, Mr. Simon Coveney, T.D., welcomes departure of L.. EITHNE
to assist in the Humanitarian Crisis in the Mediterranean

Minister for Defence Mr. Simon Coveney T.D. joined the Taoiseach in the Naval Base, Haulbowline this morning to mark the early despatch of L.. EITHNE to the Mediterranean. At the ceremony, the Minister stated that “The humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean is of great concern to Ireland. The quick response by the Irish Government in deciding to despatch a Naval Vessel highlights our commitment to assist with efforts to prevent further tragedy and loss of life at sea.”

Following Government approval earlier this week and agreement with the Italian authorities, the L.. EITHNE, with a crew of sixty-eight (68) personnel of the Permanent Defence Force, will depart the Naval Base in Haulbowline this morning, 16th May 2015, to assist the Italian authorities in humanitarian search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean.

The Minister further stated that “The despatch of an Irish naval vessel represents a tangible and valuable Irish national contribution to assisting the Italian authorities in the humanitarian search and rescue operation.”

The role of the Irish Naval vessel will be to provide a search and rescue capability and to undertake humanitarian rescue operations at sea in the Mediterranean. Assistance to persons in distress at sea will be provided in accordance with the applicable provisions of international conventions governing search and rescue situations. A Naval Service vessel will be deployed in the Mediterranean for a period of up to six months over the summer period, subject to the operational demands and requirements arising in the theatre of operations.

The Minister concluded by saying “I wish to commend the Defence Forces on their efficient operational and logistical planning for this deployment. I want to wish each and every crew member of L.. EITHNE, under the command of Commander Pearse O’Donnell, a safe and successful mission. You will be in our thoughts throughout the duration of your tour of duty.”

Note to Editor
L.. EITHNE was built in Ireland as a Helicopter Patrol Vessel and was commissioned on 7th December 1984 .

The ship’s crew are mostly in their mid twenties, they come from all over Ireland. They have a wide range of skills including Telegraphists, Engine Room Artificers, Cooks etc. A high proportion are technicians, but the age old skills of Seamanship are still required, irrespective of technological advances. 25% of the ship’s company are seamen. The ship itself is the ultimate in medium sized patrol vessels with a high degree of capability and comfort.
Since January 2015, it is estimated that the crisis in the Mediterranean has claimed the lives of over 1,700 refugees and migrants. During the past four months alone, some 40,000 people made crossings to Italy and Greece.

The statutory authority for the despatch of a contingent or member of the Permanent Defence Force for humanitarian operations, under the authority of the Government, is set out in section 3 (1) (f) of the Defence (Amendment) Act 2006. The legal provisions in relation to the deployment of a Naval Vessel are limited to a deployment on a humanitarian mission.

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