Tears of joy as hero sailor pops question
Able Seaman Dean Babington proved romance is alive and well in the Naval Service as he used the LÉ James Joyce's homecoming to propose to his girlfriend.
Niamh Cox (21) wept tears of joy as her boyfriend (24) got down on one knee by the Haulbowline Naval Base quayside in Cork to propose just seconds after his ship had berthed following a three-month refugee rescue mission in the Mediterranean.
"I'm in shock - I just cannot believe it. I'm so happy. I was really looking forward to having Dean home after three months but I never expected this," Niamh said.
Dean and Niamh shared a celebratory kiss with their son, Jake (18 months).
"They say absence makes the heart grow fonder -and that is very true. I've been planning this ever since I left Cork back in July," Dean said.
It proved an emotional day as LÉ James Joyce returned from the most harrowing mission undertaken by any Irish ship since the mission launched in 2015. The 59-strong crew under Lt Commander Neil Manning rescued 2,678 people and recovered a total of 21 bodies during their deployment.
"It was a very difficult mission but it was carried out with great skill and professionalism," Defence Forces Chief of Staff Vice-Admiral Mark Mellet said.