Irish Naval Service – The Birth

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From 1924 to 1938 there was little official interest in maritime affairs in this country. The ports were controlled by Britain, and the only vessel representing the Irish Free State was the Muirchú. She was operated by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, but was not very effective in her duties to protect our fisheries from illegal fishing as she was unarmed.

In 1936 permission was granted by the British government to equip the Muirchú with a gun. There is no information available as to whether this improved her effectiveness.

In 1938 Britain handed back to the Irish Free State, control of the ports ceded to them under the terms of the Treaty.

In May 1939 the Irish government ordered 2 motor torpedo boats (MTB’s) from Britain. At the outbreak of war in Europe, new worries about protecting our neutrality arose and the order was increased to 6 MTB’s

The Marine and Coast Watching Service was established in September 1939. The former British naval base Haulbowline in Cork harbour was reopened in 1940 by which time the service had in addition to the 6 MTB’s, 4 other vessels.

At the end of hostilities, the Coast Watch (which had become a separate section in 1942) was quickly disbanded, and the Marine Service was run down with the sale of their vessels.

In September 1946 the government decided that the Marine Service should become a permanent part of the Defence Forces. Thus was born the Irish Naval Service as we know it today.

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