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Bravery awards for hero gardaí

A garda from Clare and a Clare-based garda collected national bravery awards on Friday for saving lives in separate dramatic river rescues.

Garda James Hanley of Ennis Garda Station and Garda Joe Hayes of Henry Street Garda Station in Limerick both received certificates of bravery and bronze medals at the National Bravery Awards in in Farmleigh House.

At 8pm on January 13 last, Garda James Hanley and a colleague responded to a 999 call indicating that a woman was seen in the River Fergus in Ennis. When they arrived at the scene, they found the woman hanging onto a life buoy in the river. As she was unresponsive to their calls, Garda Hanley climbed the river boundary wall and waded out to her. The woman was conscious but very frightened and weak. Garda Hanley managed to keep the woman’s head above water and continued to reassure her until he was able to pull her out of the water with the assistance of his colleague and some onlookers. The woman was treated by paramedics and removed to hospital, where she made a full recovery.

“There is no doubt but for the courageous action of Garda James Hanley entering the river, especially in difficult conditions as it was cold and there was a strong current, this incident may have resulted in a loss of life,” Garda Hanley’s commendation stated.

In a separate incident, this time in the River Shannon in Limerick City, experienced swimmer Garda Joe Hayes from Ennis also saved a woman’s life.

At 6.30am on June 6 last year, Garda Joe Hayes was on duty with colleagues in the Dock Road area of the city when they noticed a woman standing by the River Shannon. The gardaí were concerned for her welfare and stopped to talk to her.

The woman appeared to be in an irrational state and seemed to be intoxicated, and while every effort was made to persuade her to step away from the edge of the river, she entered the water. Garda Hayes immediately reacted and followed the woman into the river. He quickly swam to her assistance and brought her back to the quayside where, with the help of his colleagues, she was removed from the water and taken by ambulance to hospital.

“Garda Hayes’ actions in this instance are to be highly commended, especially when one considers the natural elements that he had to overcome. The River Shannon is tidal and at that time of the year, it can reach six metres. At the time the tide was coming in and the force and swell of the river was made worse by heavy rain that had previously fallen. The currents in such conditions are treacherous and Garda Hayes faced a real risk to his own life in saving this woman,” Garda Hayes’ commendation stated.

Both men were awarded a Bronze Medal and a Certificate of Bravery for their efforts.

The honours were awarded by Comhairle na Mire Gaile – the Deeds of Bravery Council – which was established in 1947 to provide for suitable recognition by the State of deeds of bravery. The council, which is chaired by the Ceann Comhairle, includes the Cathaoirleach of Seanad Éireann, the Lord Mayor of Dublin, the Lord Mayor of Cork, the Garda Commissioner, the President of the Association of City & County Councils and the Chairman of the Irish Red Cross.

The awards presented to Gardaí Hanley and Hayes were among 21 awards presented by Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett, TD in recognition of outstanding acts of bravery. The council hopes that this high-profile ceremony will draw deserved attention to the actions of the recipients and heighten awareness of the scheme generally.

Congratulating all concerned, Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett, TD, said, “We celebrate, recognise, and we give thanks, to members of our communities who, through their selfless acts of courage have helped other people. In going to the aid of others at great risk to their own safety, our award winners have brought great pride to themselves and their families and great happiness to the people and the families of those they have helped. One cannot fail to be impressed by the strength of spirit shown by the recipients of these awards. It is that strength of spirit that makes our communities better places in which to live, that selfless sacrifice and endeavour that lifts us all and benefits us all. Our recipients have done themselves, their families, their communities and their country proud and we thank them all.”

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