Clare heroes featured strongly in this year’s National Bravery Awards which were presented by Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl at Farmleigh House on Friday.
The honours are awarded by Comhairle na Mire Gaile, the Deeds of Bravery Council, which was established in 1947 to provide suitable recognition by the State for acts of bravery. In all, awards were presented to four people from County Clare.
Congratulating the recipients, Seán Ó Fearghaíl, said: “The Bravery Awards are the only such awards made by the Irish State to its citizens and it is fitting that these courageous acts of bravery are acknowledged and celebrated. We celebrate the actions of very brave people from every corner of the country, who, through their heroic and courageous acts have helped other people.”
Mr Ó Fearghaíl singled out in particular, “the courage and bravery of Caitríona Lucas, a coast guard volunteer who tragically died during a search of the County Clare coast in September 2016.” He said, “Catriona’s courage and selfless action on that day say everything about her, her strength of character and spirit and willingness to help others. It is also a reminder of how committed and brave members of our emergency services put their lives on the line on a daily basis to help and protect their communities. Caitríona’s family accepted a Gold Medal for Bravery in recognition of her courage, which is the highest award possible.”
Mr Ó Fearghaíl acknowledged the great sacrifices and acts of bravery made by all recipients, for which they deserve to be recognised. “We thank each of them for their heroism. Their courage and selflessness are examples to us all. In going to the aid of others at great risk to their own safety, our award winners displayed courage, resolution and determination. They have done themselves, their families, their communities and their country proud and we thank them all.”
The posthumous award for Catriona Lucas was presented by Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl to her son Ben who works in Shannon with Atlantic Aviation. The other three Clare heroes to receive awards were John McDonnell (Bronze Medal), Garda Sergeant John Casey and Darren McMahon who both received Certificates of Bravery.
According to the citation, on Monday 12th September Caitríona Lucas, along with two colleagues, was on a rigid inflatable rescue boat off the Kilkee Coast searching for missing Lissycasey man. Unfortunately, at approximately 1.00pm the boat Caitríona was crewing was hit by an unexpected wave which caused it to flip over and all three occupants were thrown into the sea. Ms Lucas was subsequently airlifted unconscious from the water, but unfortunately, repeated attempts to resuscitate her were not successful. Her two colleagues were eventually rescued and subsequently made full recoveries. For her selfless efforts, Caitríona Lucas (R.I.P.) was awarded a Posthumous Gold Medal and a Certificate of Bravery.
Darren McMahon was only 13 when he risked his own life on 3rd May 2015 to save his older brother who had become trapped underwater while kayaking near the Maid of Eireann roundabout in Ennis. Darren, who was in a kayak upriver, became aware of the danger and returned to save his brother. During the incident, Darren became trapped between the two kayaks but managed to free himself and succeeded in getting his brother to safety.
John McDonnell and Sgt John Casey
John Casey was one of two sergeants based in Ennistymon Garda Station who were on duty when they were alerted to a situation concerning a drunk driver near Ballyvaughan Pier. The two Gardaí went to the scene and, without warning, the man drove off Ballyvaughan Pier. Sgt Casey and John McDonnell, who was passing by, jumped into the sea to rescue the driver who appeared unconscious.
The man was approximately 30 metres from the pier in seven feet of water. Sgt. Casey made several unsuccessful attempts to break the car window. Seeing the passenger window slightly open, Sgt. Casey and Mr McDonald attempted to remove the driver who had regained consciousness and struggled violently. Sgt. Casey and Mr McDonnell removed the driver from the sinking vehicle. His colleague, Sgt. Marie Crowley had contacted the emergency services and she, along with a local nurse assisted the driver who was then removed to Limerick University Hospital.