Two organisations exist in our small island nation that are built on a volunteer ethos – The RNLI and the GAA. I am proud to be a volunteer with the RNLI since 2011 and a member of our local GAA club Realt Na Mara to this day. When I first found out about the partnership between these two great organisations (or the marriage as a certain legendary gaelic games commentator has called it!), I could think of no better way of using an existing network of committed volunteers to help spread the RNLI’s Respect The Water message even deeper into the community and wholeheartedly embrace it.
The RNLI aims to halve coastal drowning by 2024 and the GAA will work with the charity to engage with clubs and communities, particularly on the coast, to provide information and support that could save lives. The RNLI’s drowning prevention campaign ‘Respect the Water’, will be supported through the GAA’s Healthy Clubs initiative and the wider club network.
Bundoran’s Realt na Mara GAA club (also known as Star of the Sea) has seen players and members grow up beside the sea and all of us as residents know only too well the importance of sea safety and information which could potentially save lives.
As the volunteer Lifeboat Press Officer for Bundoran RNLI, it was my great honour to attend the launch of this amazing initiative a few weeks ago at the most appropriate of venues – Headquarters – Croke Park, Dublin. For anyone into GAA, this is the holy grail – even if you’re not, you still can’t help but to be impressed by this stadium and its history – the daily tours provide a unique view of the inner workings of the place and the museum will keep you entertained too.
What made our day at Croke Park even more special, was the fact that the RNLI were permitted to bring a lifeboat into the stadium itself. The Atlantic 85 lifeboat Edna May (fleet number B-850) from our relief fleet, sat in front of Hill 16 angled to take in the magnificent Hogan Stand behind it and the large screen displaying the Respect the Water message. We are thankful to GAA stars Lyndsey Davey (Dublin), Jackie Tyrell (Kilkenny), Neil McManus (Antrim), Killian Young (Kerry) and Brian Hurley (Cork) for donating their time to the campaign and being with us on the day to help launch it. The photos of all wouldn’t be complete however without that most familiar of GAA faces and voices Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh who was on hand for the photos and would later act as master of ceremonies for the event.
Photos over, it was then time to head upstairs to the premium level, where lifeboat volunteers from stations all over the country had assembled, as well as the media and GAA players from around the country. Proceedings got underway with a quick introduction from Tullaghan man (2 miles from Bundoran) Colin Regan, who is the GAA’s Community and Health manager, before handing over to Micheál who as usual commanded the assembled crowd as soon as he opened his mouth!
The partnership between the GAA and the RNLI was first introduced by way of this video….
We also heard from RNLI Chief Executive Paul Boissier and GAA President Aogán Ó Fearghaíl who wholeheartedly welcomed the initiative on behalf of the organisation.
The launch wrapped up with a questions and answers session with the inter county players who have put their full weight behind the partnership – Jackie, Lyndsey, Killian, Neil and Brian – each of whom had their own experiences and stories to share.
From a local perspective I was also delighted to have three senior Realt Na Mara players present at the launch who took time off from their Dublin based jobs to attend and help promote the initiative. Niall Dunne, Paul Delaney and Fearghal McKiernan togged out in their black and amber kits and boarded the lifeboat for some photos. Thanks to the GAA for making Dressing Room 1 available to them to change and then run out the players’ tunnel!
The Respect the Water campaign launches officially on May 25th and in the weeks and months to come you’ll be hearing a lot more about the GAA’s involvement with it! If the RNLI’s aim of halving drownings by 2024 is to happen, then it is everyone’s responsibility to learn about the dangers of water whilst still being able to enjoy this fabulous amenity that surrounds our little country.