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Ready to call it a day after 40 years a-sailing with the Irish Naval Service

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  • Ready to call it a day after 40 years a-sailing with the Irish Naval Service

    By Sean O’Riordan

    Wednesday, November 10, 2010

    AFTER a career spanning 40 years which included involvement in the seizure of the gun-running ship Claudia, one of the naval service’s most experienced sailors has made his last voyage.

    Chief Petty Officer Joe Hickey, a native of Lusk, Co Dublin, made his first voyage on the navy’s then most modern ship, LÉ Deirdre, in 1972.

    His last trip, yesterday, was again on the service’s newest vessel LÉ Niamh as she docked in Haulbowline following a four-week patrol.

    Joe, who lives in Passage West, remembers well March 28, 1973 – the day he was on the LÉ Grainne which intercepted the Claudia off the coast of Waterford.

    On board was the then chief-of-staff of the Provisional IRA and a haul of weapons which had been loaded in Libya.

    "When we pulled alongside in our boats, Joe Cahill knew he was a beaten man. There were other naval vessels in the area so there was going to be no escape. The navy had very high grade intelligence about this shipment days before it arrived," the retired officer said.

    On board were five tonnes of arms and ammunition. The captured weapons included 250 Russian-made rifles, 240 other guns, anti-tank mines and explosives.

    "If those weapons had got through the IRA would have been better equipped than the Irish Army," Joe said.

    He was also on the LÉ Ciara when she intercepted the converted trawler Posidonia off Schull in November 1999.

    About €17.5 million of cannabis resin was discovered on board.

    Three Englishmen were convicted of drug smuggling and got a combined jail sentence of 25 years.

    Joe served on eight different ships but he acknowledged his last appointment as coxswain on LÉ Niamh was one of the highlights of an enjoyable career.

    The ship spent three months on a humanitarian, diplomatic and trade mission to Latin America earlier this year.

    Captain Mark Mellett, Officer Commanding Naval Operations Command, paid tribute to the chief petty officer.

    "He has, during his long career served his country with a commitment and a sense of duty that is a shining example to the younger members of the Naval Service. I wish him a long, happy and busy retirement with his wife Eileen and family," Capt Mellett said.

    This story appeared in the printed version of the Irish Examiner Wednesday, November 10, 2010

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