independent

Saturday 25 October 2014

Lifesavers now have a base to operate from

David Tucker

Published 23/08/2014 | 00:00

Cllr George Lawlor (Mayor of Wexford) and Bishop of Ferns, Dr Dennis Brennan, with some of the Wexford Marinewatch volunteers at the opening of the organisation’s new base last week.

Wexford Marinewatch, which was established in December 2012 to reduce the high number of suicides and deaths in Wexford Harbour, has reached another milestone with the opening of a new Portacabin Base next to the River Slaney in the harbour.

Since its formation, the group - which operates highly successful voluntary 'Suicide Prevention and Safety Patrols' in the Harbour several nights a week - has grown to have over 80 volunteers and has dealt with over 60 incidents, saving 29 lives in the process, but none of its volunteers has had to enter the water to achieve this success.

Until the establishment of the Marinewatch following an epidemic of suicide attempts, at least one person had died in Wexford Harbour during every year in living memory.

With no State funding, Marinewatch relies purely on donations from the public, local authorities and fundraising events operated in the local community.

The committee behind its success is made up of members of all the Emergency Services - such as the Gardai, Fire Service, Ambulance Service & the RNLI.

The organisation and its volunteers have gained huge respect amongst the local community due to the professionalism and effectiveness of the scheme to date.

'We are delighted to finally have somewhere to call a 'Base',' said Frank Flanagan, Chairman and Founder.

For the past two years the organisation has been working out of the back of a vehicle. 'This base will allow us to extend our training programme for volunteers and also give us the opportunity to roll out some new lifesaving equipment,' he said.

All volunteers undergo a specific Training Program, which includes a SafeTALK course (Suicide awareness) and participate in live training exercises with the local RNLI Lifeboat Crew, which prepares them for various scenarios of people entering the water.

The patrols are operated under the supervision of the Irish Coast Guard and the Gardai.

'Safety of our volunteers is paramount,' said Mr. Flanagann.

'Our volunteers do not enter the water - the RNLI are trained for that, and we're lucky we have the Lifeboat station so close to the Bridge. We are purely an Intervention Service - our trained volunteers are there to intercept persons who feel they have no other option, and give them alternatives,' he said.

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