Plans to turn the recently decommissioned LE Aisling into a floating museum for Galway are currently ‘under consideration’.
Junior Minister at the Department of Defence Paul Kehoe is set to make the decision soon, however the likelihood of this excellent idea being approved would appear low given the ministers comments regarding the high costs associated with conversion and maintenance of the ship.
The LÉ Aisling was one of the longest-serving members of the Irish naval fleet, her long and illustrious career spanning 36 years. Some of her more notable achievements include involvement in the interception and seizure of a large cargo of arms supplied by notorious gangster Whitey Bulger destined for the IRA in 1984. And being the first ship on scene when the Air India Jumbo Jet went down after a bomb explosion off Cork in 1985.
The LÉ Aisling also had the Irish Naval Service’s first female commanding officer – Lieutenant Commander Roberta O’Brien – who was also the first woman to be commissioned in the Naval service.
The ship was decommissioned earlier this summer in a ceremony in her twinned city of Galway. The city hopes that the former naval ship could be used as a floating museum in Galway harbour or off Salthill.
Minister Kehoe who will soon make the decision 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.”
If it were to go ahead the LÉ Aisling as a floating museum would be an excellent addition to Galway’s maritime attractions and no doubt it would quickly become a favourite tourist destination. The ship is currently berthed at the Naval Base in Haulbowline in County Cork.