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‘There is an awful lot more we can do to make the RNLI more welcoming for women’

Ireland has the highest proportion of female RNLI volunteer crew members — and now, for the first time, there is a woman at the helm. We meet the charity’s new chief as well as some of the women who spend their time off saving lives at sea about daring rescues, day jobs and making history

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Nadia Blanchfield, RNLI crew volunteer, at Fethard Quay, Co Wexford. Picture: Patrick Browne

Nadia Blanchfield, RNLI crew volunteer, at Fethard Quay, Co Wexford. Picture: Patrick Browne

Anna Classon, RNLI Head of Ireland Region. Picture: Steve Humphreys

Anna Classon, RNLI Head of Ireland Region. Picture: Steve Humphreys

Olivia Byrne heads out to sea with RNLI Galway. Photo: Andrew Downes/Xposure

Olivia Byrne heads out to sea with RNLI Galway. Photo: Andrew Downes/Xposure

Olivia Byrne of RNLI Galway. Photo: Andrew Downes/Xposure

Olivia Byrne of RNLI Galway. Photo: Andrew Downes/Xposure

Fin Goggin of RNLI Howth. Picture: Mark Condren

Fin Goggin of RNLI Howth. Picture: Mark Condren

Nadia Blanchfield, RNLI Fethard crew volunteer. Picture: Patrick Browne

Nadia Blanchfield, RNLI Fethard crew volunteer. Picture: Patrick Browne

Síle Scanlon, Ballycotton RNLI lifeboat crew member. Picture: Clare Keogh

Síle Scanlon, Ballycotton RNLI lifeboat crew member. Picture: Clare Keogh

Olivia Byrne, RNLI Galway. Photo: Andrew Downes/Xposure

Olivia Byrne, RNLI Galway. Photo: Andrew Downes/Xposure

Anna Classon, RNLI Head of Ireland Region. Picture: Steve Humphreys

Anna Classon, RNLI Head of Ireland Region. Picture: Steve Humphreys

Nadia Blanchfield, RNLI Fethard crew volunteer. Picture: Patrick Browne

Nadia Blanchfield, RNLI Fethard crew volunteer. Picture: Patrick Browne

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Nadia Blanchfield, RNLI crew volunteer, at Fethard Quay, Co Wexford. Picture: Patrick Browne

When Anna Classon began working with the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) some 25 years ago, little did she know that she would be appointed to lead its Ireland region.

Then, neither did the Donegal woman ever contemplate that such a post was beyond her reach in an organisation that — by the very nature of search and rescue — has tended to be a male domain.


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