BY HELEN RIDDELL
IT’S the end of an era for the Castletownbere Coast Guard unit as their officer in charge, Martin Sullivan, has stepped down after 22 years in the role. Although Martin has no plans to fully retire just yet – he will remain in the unit – his colleague, Leo O’Shea, will take over the role of OIC.
Martin first joined the Castletownbere Coast Guard team, which has had a presence in the town for 30 years, in January 1994.
By the nature of the geography of the area, the team undertakes mountain and cliff rescues, prepares landings sites for the Coast Guard search and rescue helicopter, throughout the Beara Peninsula including on its two offshore islands, Dursey and Bere.
Based in Ireland’s largest fishing port, the team also regularly assist the National Ambulance Service in extricating casualties from fishing vessels.
Martin says during his time with the unit he has assisted in hundreds of rescues, working with other agencies, including the RNLI, the National Ambulance Service, Kerry Mountain Rescue, An Garda Siochana, the Defence Forces and the Civil Defence
His role as officer in charge involved organising regular training sessions and courses to ensure the team was fully operational at all times. ‘We usually meet once a fortnight for training with extra sessions for boat training however all training is suspended for the time being due to the Covid-19 crisis, but the team is fully operational and ready to respond to any call-out.’
Martin also encourages more to volunteer and join the Coast Guard team, when the current situation is over: ‘It would be good to see more people join the Coast Guard, in particular younger members, when these restriction end and recruitment and training can resume.’
A celebration to mark Martin’s long service to the Coast Guard will take place in due course. He extended thanks to all his team members and especially to his family, ‘I would like to thank my family for their support; you can’t do this kind of role without the backing and understanding of your family.