The RNLI’s 45th lifeboat station in Ireland has officially been put on service at Union Hall for a trial period of two years. The station boat is now a declared search and rescue asset based at Keelbeg Pier in Union Hall.
The RNLI will operate a B class Atlantic 75 lifeboat from temporary station facilities and launching from a slipway adjacent to the pier. The station’s lifeboat Maritime Nation has come from the existing RNLI relief fleet and was previously on service in Galway City, Red Bay in County Antrim and Crosshaven in County Cork. Following a two-year trial period the RNLI will then make a decision on whether to establish a permanent lifeboat station.
Representations were made to the RNLI in February 2013 for a declared search and rescue asset to be established at Union Hall. Following meetings last year a team of volunteers was selected to operate the station and crew the lifeboat. There has since been an intensive period of training for the volunteer lifeboat crew, which has included months of training at Union Hall and visits to the RNLI training college in Poole.
There are currently 16 volunteer lifeboat crew including six helms at Union Hall. Their backgrounds range from a civil engineer, Guard, electrician, carpenter, fisherman, fishmonger and fireman. There are also two members of the one family involved with Castlehaven GAA club. Footballers and brothers Shane and Stephen Hurley are members of the crew. The station also has one female crewmember in Carla Nugent.
Lifeboat Operations Manager John Kelleher is proud of the new station, which he and other local people had been active in securing for the area. He said, “This is a great day for everyone involved in the setting up of this station. For years the community in Union Hall and the surrounding areas of West Cork have supported the RNLI with street collections and various fundraising events. Even though we did not have a station in Union Hall we knew how important it was to have the lifeboat service in Ireland.
“The late Joe Regan, a former mechanic at Baltimore RNLI and former chairman of the Union Hall Fundraising Committee started things rolling many years ago before others in the community took up the challenge. We received great support and encouragement from everyone involved with the RNLI at both Swords and Poole. To see this group of volunteers coming together and training with the lifeboat and now going on service is a proud day for me.”
The station will operate approximately eight miles to the west and 14 miles to the east of the greater Glandore Bay area. It is a popular spot for fishermen and visitors including anglers, rowers, swimmers and sailors. The station is flanked by Courtmacsherry RNLI to the east and Baltimore RNLI to the west.
Ronan Boyle RNLI Divisional Operations Manager said, “On behalf of the RNLI I wish everyone involved at the new trial lifeboat station in Union Hall every success. From the initial meeting right through to the start day, the enthusiasm shown by the crew and station management has been overwhelming. I am delighted that Union Hall now the opportunity to demonstrate the utility of a lifeboat in this location for the trial period of two years.”