Emotional goodbyes as heroes ship out on lifesaving mission
It was an emotional goodbye for Chief Petty Officer Colm Goulding as he shipped out to the Mediterranean on board the LÉ William Butler Yeats.
The father-of-two is one of 59 sailors on board the naval ship.
Officer Goulding, from Togher, in Cork, said goodbye to his wife and two young children before he embarked on what will be his longest journey away from home.
His sons Olan and Darren had made cards for him, which he planned to hang in his cabin.
"It will be the longest stint in my 20 years that I will have been away. It's emotional," he said.
"We know what we are going for. It is a humanitarian mission and we are going to save lives and that is what matters."
Olan (11) joked that he wouldn't be following in his dad's footsteps in relation to the Navy, as he was hoping to be a footballer.
This will be the second naval ship the Defence Forces has deployed to the Mediterranean this year.
Defence Forces personnel have rescued more than 16,000 people since operations began in 2015.
The LÉ William Butler Yeats is captained by Lt Commander Eric Tymon. The ship was formerly commissioned as a warship in the presence of the Taoiseach and the Defence Minister, in Galway, in October 2016.
Lieutenant Stuart Donaldson, who has been on a previous mission to the Mediterranean, said the work had given his life a renewed sense of purpose.
"To a certain degree nothing will ever prepare you for what you see down there. But we give them the best medical care and the best support when they come on board our ships.
"That's why I wanted to go back. It's only a small help to what is going on down there, but I want to do my small bit."
Lieutenant Donaldson said when he returned from his previous mission he had found it hard to 'decompress' having been in a "high octane environment".
"I am very proud of the work I do. But there is a massive difference between an active operation like that and going back to normal work."