In 1946 the Department of Defence bought three British corvettes for a bargain price and the Long Éireannach (LÉ) Cliona, LÉ Maev and LÉ Macha, were the sum total of the Irish navy for the next twenty years.
In late 1969 two million pounds was set aside to finance the rebuilding of the Irish Navy into a credible force and to replace,
The ships that died of shame.
Three decommissioned 1950s minesweepers, all unused, were purchased from Britain to serve the Irish Navy’s dual peacetime roles of defence training and fisheries protection. These minesweepers, LÉ Banba, LÉ Fola and LÉ Grainne each operate on a crew of 31 whereas the LÉ Maev required a crew of 70.
Ultimately, these three minesweepers will be judged on their ability to protect Irish waters against poaching trawlers. Over the years the fishing grounds of Dunmore East, Castletownbere, Galway and Killybegs have been wide open to poaching and the corvettes could not be everywhere.
Trawler skippers Billy Bates, Joe Scallan and Paddy Power in Kilmore Quay, County Wexford are sceptical about how successful the three minesweepers will be against poachers, particularly the Dutch fishing fleet. Previously when herring season was in full swing, 150 poachers would be inside the fishing limits and there was no sign of the Irish navy. They acknowledge it is difficult to police 18,000 miles of coastline with just three ships and ideally they would like to see a fleet of six ships carrying out fishery protection.
And they'd want to be on the water 24 hours.
A ‘Newsbeat’ report by Michael Ryan broadcast on 3 June 1971.