Sunday 19 January 2020

'Our God-given right to sail Liffey' - court hears sailors told skipper

Ronan Stephens, left, and Brian Stacey have gone on trial
Ronan Stephens, left, and Brian Stacey have gone on trial

A 4,000-tonne cruise ship was delayed entering Dublin Port by a small sailing boat "erratically" zigzagging in its path, a trial has heard.

Dublin Fire Brigade and RNLI lifeboats were called out deal with the incident on the Liffey at Dublin Port which began at 6am on June 1, 2017.

A court heard that the sailors of a 26ft pleasure craft refused to get out of the shipping lane.

One of them allegedly told a lifeboat skipper it was "their God-given right to go up and down this river as Dubliners".

The incident started after the small boat left its mooring at a south Dublin bank sailing club. After a couple of hours the sailing boat, which also had an outboard engine, was brought to a halt at Sir John Rogerson's Quay.

CCTV evidence showed one man being helped onto the quays where he removed his clothing.

The boat owner, yacht club member Brian Stacey (46), of Derry Drive, Crumlin, and co-defendant Ronan Stephens (42), of Captain's Road, Crumlin, face charges under the Maritime Safety Act and the Public Order Act.

They have pleaded not guilty and have gone on trial at Dublin District Court.

Dublin Port harbour master Michael McKenna told the court that the Corinthian, a 90-metre cruise ship, was delayed entry by the sailing boat's movements.

He said the boat had no radio and was zigzagging.

Mark McGibney, skipper of the RNLI all-weather lifeboat Anna Livia, said it had four people on board.

He said his lifeboat sailed closer to tell them that it would be best practice to get the boat out of the fairway.

It returned to Poolbeg Yacht Club but then proceeded back to the fairway.


The trial heard the RNLI crew told them it was bad idea, and they collected gardai. The Dublin pilot's boat was leading the cruise ship in at the time.

The RNLI witness said their warnings to the people on the sailing boat were met with profanities.

He agreed with defence barristers John Griffin and James Mulrean that wakes of other vessels could have affected the way the people on the pleasure boat could sail.

He told the judge the sailing boat was going at four or five knots, "very little more than walking speed".

He would not say a collision with the cruise liner was imminent but the sailing boat's lack of horsepower for getting out of the way was worrying.

David Lannigan, of Dublin Fire Brigade, said the boat was sailing erratically.

The defendants were charged with being under influence of alcohol and failing to stop for gardai at Poolbeg Yacht and Boat Club while being the operator of a boat, navigating the craft without due care and attention, and endangerment of an RNLI lifeboat crew at the shipping lane on the Liffey. The trial continues on June 18.

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