Rescue helpers pay for own long-service medals
SEARCH and rescue volunteers have received commemorative medals for long service -- but they had to pay for them from their own pockets.
The Herald has learned that 96 volunteers from 13 sub aqua clubs around the country had to pay up to €20 each for their own medals.
Sub aqua units have played a vital role in search and rescue missions in assisting gardai with huge numbers of murder and missing persons enquiries.
They have been assisting gardai since 1971 when the units helped in a search and rescue mission after nine fishermen went missing in the Irish Sea.
This is the first time such awards have been presented to members of Search and Recovery Units, who throughout the country dedicate their free time, year in, year out, to the recovery of missing persons.
The Irish Underwater Council states that: "All Search and Recovery efforts are embarked on in a bid to relieve some of the suffering of the grieving family and communities connected to the searches."
Michael Loftus, chairman of the Irish Underwater Council, confirmed to the Herald that the volunteers had to pay for their own medals.
"The event was organised by the Irish Underwater Council," he said.
"It was €20 for the medal and that cost was incurred by us all. It's a normal thing.
"It would be lovely if the Irish Underwater Council paid for the medals but they didn't do that. It would be the clubs and the members that pay for the privilege.
"I'm 27 years involved in Search and Rescue and it was an honour to meet President McAleese and be presented with the medals by the Minister for Justice, Dermot Ahern. It was nice to be recognised."
Mr Ahern hailed the work done by the sub aqua clubs around Ireland.
"These brave men and women give up their time to help others in very difficult circumstances," he said.
"They epitomise all that is great with this country -- a spirit of helping others in often tragic circumstances and bringing finality to families who are in distress over the loss of a loved one.
"As a society we owe them a great debt of gratitude and, on behalf of the Government, I am delighted to present them with these richly deserved awards."