Sunday 23 October 2016

Crew member's story: 'It affects me very much - especially the young kids'

PVT Sonya Larrigan and LS Katie O'Leary on board the LE Eithne after docking in Valetta, Malta
PVT Sonya Larrigan and LS Katie O'Leary on board the LE Eithne after docking in Valetta, Malta

CHEF Paul O'Shea is more used to the rolling swells of the North Atlantic than the tranquil Mediterranean.

Don't fill boiling pots to the top is the 33-year-old Cobh man's advice to any aspiring high seas cooks.

"I don't think there's a chef in the Navy that hasn't gotten a burn," he added.

For the LE Eithne's lead chef and his three colleagues in the ship's galley, the current mission to save migrants has meant a ten-fold increase in workload with as many as 650 mouths to feed.

It has also meant meal times in darkness as many of the refugees observed Ramadan fasting.

He wasn't the only crew member that had to adjust.

Army paramedic, Dundalk woman Sonya Larrigan (36), joined the crew to help with medical treatment for the almost 3,400 refugees saved by the ship's personnel since they left Ireland in May.

She admits that she suffered some sea sickness when she joined the crew.

"Yes I was a little bit green. I matched my uniform at one stage," she said.

As one of only two female crew members, it has been her responsibility to do the routine searches of the 533 rescued women and 179 children as they were brought on board.

"On some boats you'd have 10 or 15 females to go through them, so we were very busy," said LS Katie O'Leary (27), from Bere Island, Co Cork.

Lead Mechanician Brendan Daly celebrated turning 33 yesterday as the crew awaited the arrival of Defence Minister Simon Coveney at the dock in Valletta, the Maltese capital.

The minister arrived into the ship's hanger and addressed the ship's company. He thanked the heroes of the Irish flag-ship for their efforts in saving thousands of lives.

Cobh-man Brendan said that crew members can't help but be affected.

"It affects me very much - especially when you see young kids - three-week-old babies - when you have kids at home," he said.

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