Thursday 12 December 2019

RNLI volunteers team up with GAA to save lives

Declan Roche, Kilmore Quay RNLI, Declan Long, Courtown RNLI, Tony Kehoe, Rosslare RNLI, and Eoin Bird, Fethard RNLI, who are among Wexford RNLI/GAA Ambassadors
Declan Roche, Kilmore Quay RNLI, Declan Long, Courtown RNLI, Tony Kehoe, Rosslare RNLI, and Eoin Bird, Fethard RNLI, who are among Wexford RNLI/GAA Ambassadors

Esther Hayden

A major initiative aimed at reducing the number of lives lost through drowning in Ireland will see RNLI volunteers from Wexford lifeboat stations working with GAA clubs across the county to share life-saving advice with young players.

It will form part of the RNLI's 'Respect the Water' campaign which aims to highlight the risks of drowning and save lives.

Volunteers from Wexford lifeboat stations at Courtown, Kilmore Quay, Wexford, Fethard and Rosslare have all signed up and trained to become ambassadors and will be visiting GAA clubs to give talks and share drowning prevention advice. The key message of the campaign will be 'FLOAT'.

This asks people, who fall into water unexpectedly to fight their instincts, lay back and float. After sixty to ninety seconds they will have their breathing under control and will be able to call for help or swim to land if it is nearby.

Taking the message to the clubs was always a key part of the partnership and it is now being rolled out across the country. Current drowning figures show a clear gender divide, with men accounting for over two-thirds of those who lose their lives through drowning.

The RNLI/GAA Ambassadors for Wexford shared why they are involved in the partnership.

Martin Conway and Lorraine Galvin are the ambassadors for Wexford RNLI. Speaking about the partnership Martin said: 'I have been a volunteer for both the RNLI and the GAA for many years. To share what I know about life-saving with the clubs is something I never thought I would be able to do and I'm so proud of this partnership. The players who might need this advice tomorrow or next year could be sitting in the next group that we talk with at a club and that is incredible.'

Declan Long is the ambassador for Courtown RNLI.

Speaking at Croke Park he said: 'It is great to be a part of the RNLI and the GAA working together. Being upfront and proactive about water safety will hopefully prevent some family from going through the pain of losing someone from drowning.'

Eoin Bird is the ambassador for Fethard RNLI.

Eoin spoke about his reason for volunteering for the partnership. 'If this campaign can save one life, it will be worth it. Imagine a family being spared the heartbreak and suffering caused by the loss of a loved one. I have been at the search and rescue end of lifeboating for some time and it's great to be able to work on the prevention side now too.'

Declan Roche is the Kilmore Quay RNLI ambassador.

He added his voice to the campaign, having first-hand knowledge of the devastation that the loss that drowning can bring to a family.

'I know only too well the dangers of the sea having been involved in lifeboats for years. In a community like Kilmore Quay there are so many families that have been affected by this and it is heart-breaking to see loved ones trying to come to terms with the loss. I am so pleased that the RNLI are working with the GAA and I hope to be able to share safety advice with many people over the next few months.'

Tony Kehoe is the Rosslare RNLI ambassador and a well-known figure in both RNLI and GAA circles.

Tony served as a lifeboat mechanic at the station for years and is passionate about the GAA. He was delighted to hear about the partnership and immediately volunteered to work on it.

'I've been out on the lifeboat on more bad nights then I care to remember and I've been pitch side for many more matches. I know the commitment that volunteers bring to both organisations and I know that it's this commitment and passion that will save lives. We are bringing life-saving advice straight to the clubs and to the people we need to reach. I can't think of any better way to do this and I'm very proud to be involved.'

Some well-known GAA players are putting their support behind the campaign and agreeing to share messages and take part in local talks when they are available.

Wexford Hurler Shaun Murphy was an early sign up. He said: 'Living in and playing sport in Wexford means I am very aware of the coast. We are so lucky with where we live and we need to continue to enjoy the water and in some cases make a living from it. I really hope with this campaign that we can give people simple advice in case they fall into the water or see others in difficulty.'

Wexford People

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