Wednesday 21 February 2018

Female navy captains make history with handover

Lt Cdr Marie Gleeson (front) greeting her crew with outgoing captain Lt Cdr Erika Downing (back).
Lt Cdr Marie Gleeson (front) greeting her crew with outgoing captain Lt Cdr Erika Downing (back).
Mark O'Regan

Mark O'Regan

A NAVAL vessel was handed from one female captain to another for the first time in Irish history.

Onboard the LE Aoife in Waterford was outgoing Captain, Lieutenant Commander Erika Downing, who handed over control of her ship to Lt Cdr Marie Gleeson.

Lt Cdr Gleeson said she knew her late son Ciaran, who died of a heart defect aged one week, was looking down proudly on his mum as she took over the helm.

"I feel very safe at sea with my own personal angel looking out for me," she told the Irish Independent.

The 34-year-old from Cashel, Co Tipperary, said she relished the challenge of captaining a ship with a crew of more than 40.

"When we're doing our jobs we live with each other in a small, metal, confined space for up to a month at a time. One minute you're on a search-and-rescue mission and then suddenly you're involved in a drug or human trafficking callout.

"I'm married and it's not easy to be away for long periods of time and it's normal for me to miss family. But when you're doing such a rewarding job and serving the State, our families understand that sometimes sacrifices have to be made," she added.

Lt Cdr Gleeson was Second in Command on board the LE Niamh, which, in 2008, intercepted a yacht carrying more than €750m worth of cocaine of the west Cork coast – the second largest drugs haul in Irish history.

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