Irish Naval Service

Irish Naval Service

The Irish Naval Service (in Irish: "Seirbhís Chabhlaigh na hÉireann" or just "An tSeirbhís Chabhlaigh" for "the Naval Service") is the navy of the Republic of Ireland and is one of the three standing branches of the Irish Defence Forces [The Irish Defence Forces are made up of the Permanent Defence Forces (PDF or P.D.F) - the standing branches - and the Reserve Defence Forces (RDF or R.D.F.). The Navy is part of the PDF.] (Óglaigh na hÉireann). Its main base is in Haulbowline, County Cork.

Naval service vessels are all named with traditional Irish female names, taken from history and Celtic mythology. The ship prefix "LÉ" stands for "Long Éireannach", "Irish ship" in the Irish language.



The Anglo-Irish treaty of 1922 stipulated that Ireland would be given responsibility to police its customs and fishing, while the United Kingdom would remain in control of Irish Waters.In 1923 The Irish Coastal and marine service was created, yet merely one year later it was disbanded.

During the Civil War, in August 1922, a ship belonging to the British & Irish Steam Packet Company, the "Lady Wicklow", was used to bring "Free State" troops around the coast to Fenit, the port of Tralee in Co. Kerry. This was probably the first naval involvement of the Irish State. Built in 1890 in Dublin Dockyard, the ship measured 262 feet by 34. 450 troops, including officers were landed. Tralee was later successfully captured from local republican forces.

The CMS Muirchu , formerly the [ [] British Gunship "Helga" was the only CMS ship during this period. The CMS ship "Muirchu" continued patrol of Irish fisheries. "Muirchu" was re-armed in 1936. Purchased by the Irish government on advice of members of the later named Maritime Institute of Ireland for fisheries protection.

In 1938 the United Kingdom handed over three "treaty" ports (Cork Harbour, Bere Haven and Lough Swilly). Consequently, the Royal Navy withdrew from Cork Harbour in July 1938. The "Fort Rannoch" was added to the Irish fleet at that time.


In 1939 the Irish Government ordered two Motor Torpedo Boats from Vospers UK. When World War II began in September 1939 the Marine and Coastwatching Service was set up. In order for Ireland to remain neutral, it became clear that a full naval service would be required. The government consequentially ordered an additional 4 MTBs. By the end of 1940 the Irish Marine and Coastwatching Service consisted of 6 MTB's and 4 other assorted craft.During the War the Service regulated merchant ships, protected fisheries, and laid mines in Cork and Waterford. When the war ended, the Service was renamed the "Irish Marine Service".


In September 1946, the Marine Service was incorporated into the Irish Defence Forces. This was the beginning of the modern Naval Service. The navy purchased three Corvettes from the United Kingdom in 1946 and 1947. The tradition of naming Irish Naval Ships after figures in Celtic Mythology began, and the ships were named Cliona, Maev and Macha. These three ships were to become a key part of the Naval Service in the 1950s and 1960's. The First formal training of Irish Naval Cadets took place at the Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, UK in 1947. Between 1968 and 1970, Cliona, Maev and Macha were withdrawn from service. These were replaced by three Minesweepers commissioned in 1971: Grainne, Banba and Fola.


In 1971 the Naval Service commissioned Verlome Cork Dockyard to build an offshore patrol ship. Named LÉ Deirdre, it was the first naval vessel purpose-built in Ireland to patrol its waters.The Economic Exclusion Zone of Ireland was increased in 1976 from 12 to 200 miles. The subsequent strain put on the Naval Service prompted funding from the European Community to build and purchase seven ships, five of which remain in service today; the LÉ Setanta, sold in 1980, and LÉ Deirdre, sold a number of years ago, having been decommissioned.Also commisioned was the Helen basse a stern trawler A16 LE Ferdia in 1977 decommissioned the following year


The 50th anniversary of the Irish Naval Service took place in 1996. Celebrations included a fleet review by president Mary Robinson. In 1999, a new ship LÉ Róisin was delivered to the Navy, marking the beginning of a new class of larger patrol vessels. The most recent addition to the fleet has been LÉ Niamh, commissioned in September 2001.

While most missions undertaken by the Naval Service are in Irish waters, on occasion longer missions are undertaken in support of Irish forces serving with the United Nations, representing Ireland, or in support of Irish trade missions. In 2002 LÉ Niamh delivered supplies to Irish troops in Eritrea, then continued on a trade promotional tour to India, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Korea, and Japan, becoming the first Irish naval vessel to cross the Equator. In 2006 LÉ Eithne travelled to Argentina, attending ceremonies connected with the 149th anniversary of the death of Irish-born Admiral William Brown, founder of the Argentine Navy, and also visited ports in Uruguay and Brazil.

Current strength

Its current strength is eight offshore patrol vessels:

*"Emer class" offshore patrol vessels
** LÉ "Emer" (P21) (Emer class)
** LÉ "Aoife" (P22)
** LÉ "Aisling" (P23)

*"Eithne class" offshore patrol vessel
** LÉ "Eithne" (P31)

*"Peacock (Orla) class" small patrol corvettes
** LÉ "Orla" (P41)
** LÉ "Ciara" (P42)

*"Róisín class" offshore patrol vessels
** LÉ "Róisín" (P51)
** LÉ "Niamh" (P52)

The service also operates smaller training vessels and inflatable sea going craft.

Air assets are provided by the Air Corps, such as the 2 CASA CN-235 Maritime patrol aircraft operated from Baldonell Aerodrome in County Dublin.

Search and Rescue helicopters are operated under contract by the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources and are crewed and maintained by the Irish Coast Guard.

Current bases include: Cork Naval Base Headquarters, Reserve stations at Dublin, Limerick, Waterford and Cork Naval HQ. There are currently 1,444 personnel of all ranks in the service (Including aprox 400 Reserves). LÉ "Eithne" is the current flagship of the Naval Service.Non-Military training takes place alongside Merchant Navy Personnel at the National Maritime College of Ireland in Ringaskiddy, adjacent to the Haulbowline base

The Future

The Navy is planning on replacing the LÉ Emer with an MRV (Multi Role Vessel) and the rest of the fleet in later years. Fact|date=February 2007 The Irish Times (6/1/07 on page 4) published an article on the subject of 3 new vessels for the NS.

Points to note are:

-Total cost in the region of €180m-Half of that will go on a 120 metre vessel that will be able to take part in coastal patrols but also in peace support including transporting APCs.-the other €90m will go on 2 approx 80m ships 'similar to the largest vessels in the current fleet' - presumably a reference to the P50 class-a group of civil servants and Defence Forces officers are to bring recommendations to the Minister for Defence, who is expected to bring proposals to cabinet 'by the middle of the year'.

*P20 class
*MRV Specifications:
*Length: 121 m
*Beam: 17 m
*Draught: 4.40 m
*Displacement: 3,900 t
*Range: 8,000 km
*Endurance: 30 days
*Weapons: 1 Oto Melara 76 mm 1 x Remote Controlled MSI DS25 Stabilized Naval Gun with 25mm M242 Bushmaster cannon
*2 High speed diesel engines 5200kw each
*2 Shafts fitted with controllable pitch propellers
*Max Speed: 22 Knots

*Crew: 160
*APCs: 20 Mowag Piranhas
*Helicopter: Optional


*LÉ "Muirchú"
*LÉ "Deirdre" (P20)
*LÉ "Grainne" (CM10)
*LÉ "Banba" (CM11)
*LÉ "Fola" (CM12)
*LÉ "Macha" (01)
*LÉ "Maev" (02)
*LÉ "Cliona" (03)


Commissioned Ranks

* Commodore (single position)
* Captain
* Commander
* Lieutenant Commander
* Lieutenant (Naval Service)
* Sub Lieutenant
* Ensign

Non-Commissioned Ranks

* Warrant Officer
* Senior Chief Petty Officer
* Chief Petty Officer
* Senior Petty Officer
* Petty Officer
* Leading Seaman
* Able Seaman
* Ordinary Seaman

See also

* Irish Coast Guard (IRCG) (Irish: "Garda Cósta na hÉireann") - a civilian search-and-rescue and pollution control agency, without law enforcement or military powers, is not part of the Naval Service. Instead, the IRCG is a division of the Department of Transport.


External links

* [ Official defence forces website]
* [ Official naval website]
* [ Irish Marine Institute History]

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