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Aran Islands RNLI officially opens new Visitor Experience and lifeboat shop on Inis Mór

Aran Islands RNLI officially opened their new shop and Visitor Experience on Inis Mór this weekend, raising vital funds for the charity that saves lives at sea and awareness of the work of the lifeboat crew serving the islands. The sun came out for the grand opening, which took place on Saturday (1 October). The honour of cutting the ribbon fell to mother and daughter, Margaret Gill and Lena O’Connell. Both RNLI volunteers, Margaret is Treasurer of the Aran Islands fundraising branch with almost 40 years of service to the charity, while Lena is the station Lifeboat Press Officer and a fundraiser.

Cullen-Quinn, Tommy Dirrane, Padraig Éinne Dillane, Daniel O’Connell, Coxswain John O’Donnell, Treasurer Margaret Gill, RNLI Head of Region Anna Classon, Station Mechanic Mairtin Coyne, Lena O’Connell, Alan O’Flynn, Ronan MacGiollaphadraig and Máirtín Ó Flaithearta. Seated is Aran Islands Lifeboat Operations Manager Michael T. Hernon.

The new shop is located next to the Aran Islands lifeboat station at Kilronan Pier while the Visitor Experience is inside the boathall. The shop offers a wide range of RNLI branded goods, including clothing and accessories, toys and stationery. It is expected to open seven days a week during the tourist season from Easter through to Autumn and will coincide with the ferry timings to and from the island.

The Visitor Experience makes wonderful use of the large number of images and information about the station’s lifeboats, including memorable milestones, awards and rescue stories. The opening brought out a group of locals and visitors, with music provided by well-known musician Locko Cullen and a delicious buffet lunch laid on by Teach Nan Phaidí.

Jack O’Connell and Siobhan McGuinness were on hand to welcome customers to the new Aran Islands RNLI shop

Aran Islands RNLI station mechanic Máirtín Eoin Coyne was MC for the event and, welcoming people to the short ceremony, was Lifeboat Operations Manager, Michael T. Hernon, who thanked the dedicated volunteers who have supported the lifeboat station and fundraising for nearly a century. RNLI Regional Engagement Manager Daniel Curran acknowledged the huge amount of people who had made the opening possible.

Nora O’Donnell, Padraic O’Tuairisg, RNLI Head of Region Anna Classon. Front Row: Michelle O’Donnell and Lifeboat Operations Manager for the Aran Islands RNLI Michael T. Hernon.

RNLI Head of Region, Anna Classon, whose own grandfather was a member of the Garda Síochána stationed on the island, and who made Inis Mór a home for her mother and uncles for many years, gave her speech in Irish and paid tribute to the lifeboat and island communities who support the RNLI in their lifesaving work.

Anna said, ‘This community, with the support of the RNLI, has been serving those in trouble on the sea for many years. It has a been a selfless tradition, with a history of bravery, volunteering, and kindness to strangers. Thank you for joining the RNLI in the bravest of endeavours, to put others before yourselves, in whatever role you play. I congratulate all involved with this lovely new shop and visitor experience and hope you welcome many people across the threshold in the years to come.’

Aran Islands Lifeboat Press Officer and Fundraising Volunteer Lena O’Connell and Aran Islands RNLI Treasurer Margaret Gill cut the ribbon on the Aran Island RNLI’s Visitor Experience as crowd watches on.

After conducting the official ribbon cutting with her daughter Lena, Aran Islands RNLI Treasurer Margaret Gill said, ‘We are so thrilled to have our new shop and visitor experience on Inis Mór. There is an incredible history of lifeboating and lifesaving on this island and a group of committed volunteers that support it. There are tales of rescues and brave deeds going back generations and it’s lovely to have somewhere for visitors and locals to take a minute, look around the exhibits, and learn a bit about our history. They can also visit our shop when they have finished and buy a little memento of their trip to the island or an early Christmas card. As a charity the RNLI relies on the generosity of the pubic and we are so grateful for that ongoing support.’