Gardaí are investigating reports that a body has been found by a civilian diver taking part in the search off the southeast coast for missing fisherman Willie Whelan.

It is likely that divers from both the Naval Service and the Garda Water Unit will have to attempt to get into the trawler, the Alize, as part of the next stage of the recovery process.

That could take days, as specialised equipment will be needed by divers trying to reach the trawler on the sea-bed, and weather will also be a factor.

It's thought that tomorrow morning will be the next time that a dive is attempted to the trawler off the County Wexford coast, weather permitting.

It is 18 days since Mr Whelan, 41, went missing after the trawler he was travelling on sank about eight nautical miles south of Hook Head.

65-year-old Joe Sinnott, who was also on board the trawler, was taken from the sea by the R117 Coast Guard search and rescue helicopter but pronounced dead in hospital. He was from Kilmore in Co Wexford.

A major search has since been concentrating on trying to find Mr Whelan, who is from the Saltmills area of Fethard-on-Sea in Co Wexford.

The Alize sank on the night of January 4th as Willie Whelan and Joe Sinnott were on their way back to harbour after fishing for scallops.

The search has involved the Coast Guard, the RNLI, the Naval Service, the gardaí, search and rescue helicopters, as well as local boat owners, volunteers and members of the public.

Weather hampered the operation at various times, including last week when Storm Brendan hit Ireland, but navy divers have carried out extensive work in the area where the Alize sank, about nine nautical miles off Hook Head in County Wexford, to establish the trawler's position.

It's understood Garda sub-aqua unit divers arrived on the scene on Monday and were using the Irish Lights' vessel the Granuaile as a base before that ship went back to Rosslare on Tuesday evening.

The LE James Joyce naval vessel has also been on standby in the area.