Government considering LE Aisling museum proposal

A recently decommissioned Irish naval ship may be turned into a museum in Galway.

The idea of using the LÉ Aisling as a visitor attraction in the city, has been floated with Government.

Paul Kehoe, Junior Minister at the Department of Defence, this week said the request is “under consideration”.

The ship, which had been twinned with Galway City for almost 20 years, has travelled 628,856 nautical miles, the equivalent of travelling around the world more than 32 times.

It was decommissioned at a ceremony in Galway Harbour in June after 36 years of service to the State.

At the time, City Councillor Pearce Flannery (FG), the deputy mayor, suggested it could be used as a floating museum in Galway Harbour or off Salthill.

Minister Kehoe this week said he would soon make a decision as what to do with the LÉ Aisling.

The former LÉ Emer was disposed of in 2013 at auction, and fetched €320,000 for Exchequer. In 2015, the former LÉ Aoife was transferred to the Maltese Armed Forces on humanitarian grounds and is used to help with the ongoing refugee crisis in the region.

Minister Kehoe said: “The question of using the former LÉ Aisling as a visitor attraction in Galway City has been raised with me and is under consideration. I am advised that given the age, size, structure and layout of Naval Service vessels that they are considered rather unsuitable for conversion to use as museums or visitor attractions.

“Many issues arise in connection with the conversion of vessels into visitor attractions. This is because a vessel requires ongoing protection measures to affect the physical condition of the vessel to defend it, to stabilise the structural integrity of the vessel, and to guard it from deterioration.

“A vessel must be kept structurally sound, weather resistant and watertight and this requires the availability of materials and competent personnel with requisite skills and expertise to carry out work, at a significant cost. There are other significant costs for the recipient associated with a donation of this type, such as health and safety issues and insurance liabilities and risks.”

The ship was named after the poem, “Aisling” to commemorate the centenary of the birth of the poet and nationalist Patrick Pearse who wrote much of his poetry in Galway.

The Aisling was the ship that was first on scene when the Air India Jumbo Jet was downed by a bomb explosion off the Cork Coast in 1985.

It is currently being stored on water at berthage facilities at the Naval Base in Haulbowline in County Cork.

Minister Kehoe said he would take into account “the pressures on berthage infrastructure and the cost of maintenance on the vessel, the most cost effective and responsible approach” when he decides on what to do with the vessel.