Med crew worked from dawn to dusk
Sailors on board the LÉ Samuel Beckett worked from 3am until 7pm every day saving lives in the most harrowing of circumstances, crew members said yesterday.
They rescued 3,087 people and recovered 11 bodies during an 85-day humanitarian mission to help tackle the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean.
Petty officer David O'Leary said RTÉ documentary 'The Crossing' had opened people's eyes to the desperation of people willing to risk their lives to escape oppression and poverty.
"A lot of work that has gone on the last two years has gone unnoticed to some extent," he said, as the ship returned to Haulbowline, Co Cork.
He added his father died two days into the deployment and the Navy "bent over backwards" to send him home for the funeral.
Petty officer Patricia O'Sullivan, of Ballydehob, Co Cork, said she was haunted by the voices of people lost at sea. She said it was particularly disturbing to see women and young children in such dire circumstances.
"Especially the very small children," she said. "The little babas coming on board and they are crying. They come on with absolutely nothing but the shirt on their back."
At the quayside, relatives of the ship's commanding officer Lt Commander Darragh Kirwan were eagerly awaiting his return. His wife Elaine was with her four children, who held banners that said: "Get out of our way, we get our daddy back today."