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The Irish Naval Service

The provision of a naval service for the fledgling Irish Free State in 1922,was fraught with problems. Under the terms of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, Ireland was not allowed to raise it's own naval force, but had to rely on the protection of the Royal Navy.

This was demonstrated during the Irish Civil War, when British Naval forces provided both armaments and intelligence for the Free State forces against the Irregulars. British Destroyers patrolled the coasts and provided searchlights and star-shell support to Free State defenders under attack in Kerry and elsewhere.

Haulbowline Island
Haulbowline Island, Home of the Irish Naval Service

After the uneasy truce of 1923, permission was given for a small maritime force, ostensibly for fishery protection, but also as patrol craft guarding against arms landings for the IRA (Irish Republican Army) which was still a threat to the new State.

This appears to have been a failure, using a collection of ex-minesweeping trawlers, wooden 80ft motor launches and and a rescue tug. It was disbanded within a year and the vessels either sold or scrapped. It must be remembered that this was in the context of a government that could not even afford to maintain old-age pensions.

Fishery protection in this era was a disaster, with fleets of foreign (and native) trawlers having scant disregard for any rules and regulations regarding commercial fishing.

Muirchu, ex-HMS Helga

It was decided that one vessel the Muirchu (ex-HMS Helga) would be Ireland's sole fishery protection vessel. This craft, unarmed until 1936, was under the control of the Department of Agriculture. This was the extent of Ireland's COASTAL AND MARINE SERVICE

In 1938, Ireland gained full control of the Treaty Ports and the right to her own navy.The Muirchu, was joined in fishery protection duties by the trawler Fort Rannoch.

In 1939, with the outbreak of war the MARINE AND COASTWATCHING SERVICE was established. The Irish Government ordered 6 Motor Torpedo Boats from Britain. This was not without criticism, as it would be hard to find a craft, less suited to the turbulent seas of Ireland (see feature on US Subchasers ). They were joined by the MV Shark, formerly a salvage vessel, and the three-masted fore and aft schooner Isaalt

INS LE Macha
LE Macha

It was not until 1946 that the Irish Naval Service was established. The first ships were three ex - Royal Navy Flower Class Corvettes, which provided sterling service for the nation.

Again, a remarkable lack of political will ensured that this fleet was not updated until 24 years later in 1970, with the purchase of three coastal minesweepers, again from the Royal Navy.

Since then the naval Service has gone from strength to strength. It has a proud tradition of service to the Irish nation. The island of Haulbowline in Cork Harbour, serves as the headquarters of the Irish Naval Service. It comprises of oil wharf, basin, workshops,accomodation, communications , stores and administration.

INS LE Niamh
LE Niamh

The main duty of the Navy has always been as a Fisheries Protection Service. It has also performed valuable service in the rescue of life, and during disasters such as the Air India disaster off the West coast of Cork in June 1985.

The Navy has also been involved in the interception of terrorist arms cargoes and drugs shipments to Ireland. It has also provided logistics to Irish Forces serving overseas with the United Nations.

Fleet List

The Coastal and Marine Service,

The Marine and Coastwatching Service,

The Irish Irish Naval Service

Name Description Details
Dainty Admiralty rescue Tug 1923. Formerly HMT Dainty. Built by Finch, Chepstow, in 1918. Disposed 1924.
Muirchu Fishery Protection Vessel 1922, formerly HMS Helga. Built by Dublin Dockyard 1908. Disposed 1947.
John Dunn Mersey Class Armed Trawler 1923, HMT John Dunn. Built by Ferguson, Port Glasgow, 1918.
John Dutton Mersey Class Armed Trawler 1923. formerly HMT John Dutton. Built by Ferguson,Port Glasgow, 1918.Disposed 1924.
William Horner Mersey Class Armed Trawler 1923. Formerly HMT William Horner. Built by Ferguson, Port Glasgow, 1918.Disposed 1924.
Robert Murray Mersey Class Armed Trawler 1923. Built by Cochrane of Selby, 1919.Disposed 1924.
Thomas Thresher Mersey Class Armed Trawler 1923.Built by Cochrane of Selby. 1918. Disposed 1924.
Christopher Dixon Mersey Class Armed Trawler 1923. Built by Chchrane of Selby, 1919.Disposed 1924.
TR24 Formerly HMT25. Canadian Castle Class Armed Trawler. 1923.Built by Vickers, Montreal, 1917.Disposed 1924.
TR25 Canadian Castle Class Armed Trawler. 1923.Formerly HMT25. Built by Vickers, Montreal. 1918. Disposed 1924.
TR27 Canadian Castle Class Armed Trawler 1923. Formerly HMT TR27. Built by Vickers Montreal 1918. Disposed 1924.
TR29 Canadian Castle Class Armed Trawler 1923. Formerly HMT TR29. Built by Vickers, Montreal 1918.Disposed 1924.
TR30 Canadian Castle Class Armed Trawler 1923. Formerly HMT TR30. Built by Vickers, Montreal, 1918.Disposed 1924.
TR31 Canadian Castle Class Armed Trawler 1923 . Formerly HMT TR31.Built by Vickers, Montreal, 1918.Disposed 1924.
Inisherer Drifter 1922. Disposed 1924.
John S. Somers Drifter 1922. Formerly HMD John S.Somers . Disposed 1924.
ML1 Moror Launch 1922. Disposed 1924.
ML2 Motor Launch 1922. Disposed 1924.
ML3 Motor Launch 1922. Disposed 1924.
Fort Rannoch Trawler 1937. Disposed 1947
M1 Motor Torpedo Boat 1940. Disposed 1948
M2 Motor Torpedo Boat 1940. Disposed 1948
M3 Motor Torpedo Boat 1940. Disposed 1948
M4 Motor Torpedo Boat 1942. Disposed 1948.
M5 Motor Torpedo Boat 1942. Disposed 1948.
M6 Motor Torpedo Boat 1943. Disposed 1948.
MPV Shark Ex-Salvage Vessel 1940. Formerly Shark, (of Palmers,Ringaskiddy)
TV Isallt Sail Training Vessel (fore and aft schooner) 1940. Disposed 1945.
LE Macha Flower Class Corvette 1946. Formerly HMS Borage (1942). Disposed 1970.
LE Cliona Flower Class Corvette 1947. Formerly HMS Bellwort (1941). Disposed 1970.
LE Maev Flower Class Corvette 1947. Formerly HMS Oxlip (1941). Disposed 1972
LE Grainne ConistonClass Coastal Minesweeper 1971. Formerly HMS Oulston (1956) Disposed 1985.
LE Banba ConistonClass Coastal Minesweeper 1971. Formerly HMS Alverton (1954). Disposed 1983
LE Fola (CM12) ConistonClass Coastal Minesweeper 1971. Formerly HMS Blaxton (1955). Disposed 1986
LE Deirdre (P20) Offshore Patrol Vessel 1972. Disposed 2001
LE Emer (P21) Offshore Patrol Vessel 1977. Disposed 2013
LE Aoife (P22) Offshore Patrol Vessel 1979 . Disposed 2015
LE Aisling (P23) Offshore Patrol Vessel 1980. Disposed 2016.
LE Eithne (P31) Helicopter Patrol Vessel 1984
LE Orla (P41) Peacock Class Patrol Vessel Formerly HMS Swift (1985) Disposed 1989
LE Ciara (P42) Peacock Class Patrol Vessel Formerly HMS Swallow (1984) Disposed 1989
LE Setanta (A15) Patrol and Training Vessel 1976. Formerly Isolda (1953) -(for Commissioners of Irish Lights). Built by Liffey Dockyard Dublin. Disposed 1984
LE Ferdia (A16) 1977 1977 Stern Trawler used as Patrol Vessel Helen Basse (1965)
LE Roisin (P51) Offshore Patrol Vessel 1999
LE Niamh (P52) Offshore Patrol Vessel 2001
LE Samuel Beckett (P61) Offshore Patrol Vessel 2014
LE James Joyce (P62) Offshore Patrol Vessel 2015
LE William Butler Yeats (P63) Offshore Patrol Vessel 2016
LE George Bernard Shaw (P64) Offshore Patrol Vessel 2016

The books featured below, provide a comprehensive history of the irish Naval Service

Books on the Irish Naval Service    Site first uploaded 24th September 2002    ©2002 to 2022     Site last updated January 2022

Wrecks over 100 years old and archaeological objects found underwater are protected under the National Monuments (Amendment) Acts 1987 and 1994. Significant wrecks less than 100 years old can be designated by Underwater Heritage Order (UHO) on account of their historical, archaeological or artistic importance as is the case with the wreck of the RMS Lusitania lost off the Old Head of Kinsale in 1915. UHOs can also be used to designate areas of seabed or land covered by water to more clearly define and protect wreck sites and archaeological objects. Under the legislation all diving on known protected wreck sites or with the intention of searching for underwater cultural heritage is subject to licensing requirements.