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Irish Lifeboats

Royal National Lifeboat Institution RNLI

RNLI all-weather (ALB) and inshore (ILB) lifeboats in action. Photo Credit: RNLI

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) is the largest charity that saves lives at sea around the coasts of the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, the Channel Islands, and the Isle of Man, as well as on some inland waterways.


Founded in 1824 as the National Institution for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck, it’s name was changed to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution in 1854 and in 1860 was granted a Royal Charter.


Its main base is in Poole, Dorset. It has 238 lifeboat stations and operates 444 lifeboats. RNLI Lifeguards operate on more than 200 beaches.  The Institution also operates Flood Rescue Teams nationally and internationally, the latter prepared to travel to emergencies overseas at short notice.


Considerable effort is put into training and education by the Institution, particularly for young people; more than 6,000 children a week are spoken to by education volunteers about sea and beach safety, and over 800 children a week receive training. The Institution has saved some 140,000 lives since its foundation, at a cost of more than 600 lives lost in service.

The RNLI in Ireland

Kilmore Quay RNLI on exercise. Photo Credit: Nigel Millard

When the RNLI was founded in 1824, the whole island of Ireland was part of the ‘United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland’. The first RNLI lifeboat station in Ireland was established in Arklow, Co Wicklow, in 1826. Over the next 100 years, more stations sprang up all round the island, crewed, as is still the case, by local volunteers.


By the time the Irish Free State was established in 1922, there were 24 Irish RNLI lifeboat stations. British Government agencies, such as HM Coastguard, withdrew services from the free state, but the RNLI’s independent, volunteer-driven services remained.


In the March 1926 issue of The Lifeboat Journal, an article on the roll out of motor lifeboats reads:

‘This work in Ireland has not been affected by the political changes and the setting up of an Irish Free State Government with the status of a Dominion. At the express wish of this Government the Institution is continuing to maintain the Service in the Free State as well as in Northern Ireland.’


Lifeboat stations in the 26-county free state (which was declared a fully independent republic in 1949) and in Northern Ireland have carried on saving lives under the RNLI banner since.


The RNLI currently operate 46 stations around the coastlines of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland as well as major inland waterways.

RNLI Lifeboat Fleet

The RNLI have over 350 lifeboats based at stations around the UK and Ireland.


Between them, RNLI lifeboats cover 19,000 miles of coastline and some busy inland stretches of water.


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RNLI Lifeboat Stations

The RNLI provide 24-hour search and rescue service operates from 238 lifeboat stations around the UK and Ireland.


Every lifeboat station has different needs depending on its location and without the right shore facilities, lifeboat crews cannot operate effectively.


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RNLI Lifeguards

RNLI lifeguards starting patrolling beaches in 2001 following a successful pilot scheme covering 26 popular beaches in south-west England. 


Since then, it has grown with over 1,000 RNLI lifeguards patrol over 200 beaches around the UK including Northern Ireland.


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RNLI Flood Rescue Team

After helping in the Mozambique floods of 2000, the RNLI formed its own Flood Rescue Team to respond to flood emergencies.


The RNLI Flood Rescue Team is always ready to carry out search and rescue operations wherever severe flooding puts lives at risk. 


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