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Galway RNLI lifeboat volunteer selected as finalist for Dara Fitzpatrick Award

A Galway lifeboat volunteer who – in her professional life as a nurse – also organises training in casualty care for her colleagues was shortlisted recently for an award that honours the memory of a Coast Guard Captain who lost her life while on duty in a tragic helicopter crash.

Galway RNLI lifeboat volunteer Olivia Byrne was chosen as a finalist for the Captain Dara Fitzpatrick Award, which recognises the vital work of first responders and the important role that women play in the emergency services.

Olivia was one of a group of five women, who were chosen as finalists from a large number of entrants from across Ireland.

The ceremony was hosted by the Irish Paramedicine Education and Research Network and the Fitzpatrick family and took place in the University of Limerick.

The award pays tribute to Dara’s powerful legacy as an Irish Coast Guard Search and Rescue pilot by celebrating inspirational women who work in the Irish pre-hospital community and emergency services.

Dara’s values of compassion and kindness, strength and bravery, leadership and teamwork, and professionalism were key to the selection process.

Olivia Byrne is a nurse, midwife and public health nurse, while also volunteering with the Galway Lifeboat crew. She was nominated for the award by the station’s Lifeboat Operations Manager Mike Swan.

“Olivia has been a volunteer lifeboat crew member with Galway RNLI for more than twenty years,” said Mike.

“Over that time, she has been on 132 callouts and has been involved in many rescues including passengers on cruise ships and has dealt with injuries from fractured hips to cardiac arrests, while also dealing with people who have lost their life through drowning.

“Olivia’s nursing background has seen her bring nursing skills to a search and rescue role for the benefit of all the crew at the Galway Lifeboat Station and ultimately, those who we rescue.

“As part of basic training all of our volunteer crew undertake the RNLI casualty care programme, which is the first aid training for lifeboat crew for operational callouts.

“To support this training, Olivia organises casualty care exercises at the station and ensures that new crew coming into the search and rescue field are supported in this training and feel comfortable and confident in carrying out these lifesaving tasks.

“In addition, Olivia initiated the ongoing engagement with the College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences at the University of Galway which enabled our crew to visit the Clinical Simulation and Interprofessional Education Facility last year and put their casualty care training into practice in real time,” he added.

Olivia herself described it as ‘a great privilege’ to be included in what she called ‘this group of highly trained women’.

“The ceremony was very emotional for all present and it helps to keep the memory of Dara alive. Dara was an exceptional pilot who had immense courage but also had the human touch. This was evident in the speeches on the day and from meeting her family and colleagues who worked alongside her,” she said.

“The other finalists for the award are outstanding leaders in their emergency service specialties and the worthy winner of the Capt. Dara Fitzpatrick Award 2024 was Pte Nicole Carroll who is a Defence Forces Combat Medical Technician.

“I was delighted to be a finalist and to share the experience of the award ceremony with an incredible group of women,” she added.

Pictured: Olivia Byrne and Mike Swan, volunteer crew with Galway RNLI at the Capt Dara Fitzpatrick Award 2024 in Limerick recently. Olivia was one of five finalists for the award organised by Irish Paramedicine Education and Research Network to celebrate inspirational women who work in the Irish pre-hospital community and emergency services.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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