An off-duty garda and father of four who died in a diving tragedy off the Wexford coast has been hailed for his selfless courage in risking his life multiple times over the years to save others.
Tributes to Garda Dave Hearne (46) were led by Irish Bravery Awards Council (IBAC) chairman Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl, who noted that the garda followed in the brave footsteps of his father who was also honoured for his courage in 1958.
"I was deeply saddened to learn of the tragic death of Gda Hearne in Wexford," he said.
"He was a worthy recipient of a certificate of bravery in 2016 which was awarded to him for rescuing a man from the Colligan River in Waterford some years earlier.
"In his selfless service to others, Gda Hearne followed in the footsteps of his father, Declan, who was a bravery award recipient in 1958. My thoughts and prayers are with Gda Hearne's wife, children and wider family at this time," he said.
Gda Hearne died after apparently suffering an acute case of the 'bends' or decompression sickness as he was engaged in a recreational dive on a wreck site some 15km off Hook Head on Saturday.
He was diving at the time with Hook Sub Aqua Club, of which he was a member.
Gda Hearne is a former member of the Garda Water Unit but had been based in Waterford over recent years as part of the Traffic Corps.
Sub-aqua club members were operating last Saturday in an area some 10km from where the search was ongoing for missing Wexford fisherman Dominic 'Dom' Sinnott.
Mr Sinnott vanished last Friday while fishing off Kilmore Quay.
The sub-aqua club was not taking part in the search operation but is understood to have been on standby to offer help if needed.
The garda was completing a dive on the wreck site around lunchtime with two colleagues when he was suddenly taken ill.
They immediately brought him to the surface and raised the alarm.
Gda Hearne was pronounced dead on admission to University Hospital Waterford (UHW).
The native of Fethard, Co Wexford, was an accomplished diver and had received multiple awards for water rescues over the years.
He had saved seven lives in the space of just three years thanks to his bravery.
Gda Hearne is survived by his wife Barbara and children Dylan, Toby, Noah and Libby.