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Image: Wexford Marine Watch

Wexford 'bridge watch' team responded to 20 incidents in past 12 months

Marine Watch was set up in December last year. It’s the first 12 month period since records began that there hasn’t been one suicide in Wexford Harbour.
Dec 15th 2013, 8:45 AM 20,448 48

THE VOLUNTEERS BEHIND the Wexford Marine Watch have been quietly marking the initiative’s first anniversary. It’s been a successful 12 months; in fact, the first year-long period without a suicide taking place in Wexford Harbour since authorities began taking records in 2001.

The 63 metre bridge, which links the River Slaney’s east and west banks, has long been a black-spot for suicides in the area.

“The waters are so fast under there you’re lucky if someone sees you go in,” Wexford Marine Watch Secretary Conor Barry told TheJournal.ie. “You can be swept out sea within a few minutes.”

In the wake of the last suicide recorded at the bridge, the people of Wexford came together in December of last year to try and tackle the issue. The group is steered and advised by members of the emergency services, including high-ranking members of the local gardaí, fire service, ambulance service and Civil Defence.

According to Barry, himself a member of the Civil Defence: “We all put our heads together and decided what would be the best approach. There was another group in Waterford that had been in operation for quite a few years that carried out patrols at night, so we decided to take the same route.”

Members carry out planned patrols on the bridge several nights a week, in groups of between four and six people. All receive training on how to deal with people threatening suicide, and there’s a strict protocol in place on how to deal with such situations.

“What will happen is two members of the group will engage the person — all our members have safe talk training from the HSE — the other two will contact the local Coast Guard unit. The Coast Guard then contact the other emergency services and a response is mounted.”

Barry says the group has dealt with twenty incidents where it was deemed such a protocol be followed. The volunteers — many of whom aren’t members of the emergency services, just locals giving up their time to help out — are offered counselling by the Wexford ‘It’s Good to Talk’ service if they feel they need support in the days after encountering such incidents.

imageThe Marine Watch volunteers [Image: Wexford Marine Watch]

As they head into their second year, the group is sending out a fresh appeal to the public for donations to fund its continued operation. Barry says they’re also looking for equipment donations: safety clothing, life-jackets, throw-bags and the myriad other items of clothing and gear needed for a team hoping to respond to situations in whatever weather they might encounter.

“The business community in Wexford has been great, we’ve really become a part of the local community in the past 12 months and there’s an growing awareness of what we do, and the issue in general. So as long as that can continue, it’s very positive for the town.”

Note: If you feel you need to talk to someone, here are some groups which may be able to help:

Read: Report: Irish rate of young male suicide ‘among EU’s highest’ >

Read: Voluntary group set up to address increase in suicide in Wexford >

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Daragh Brophy

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