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Eithne during the Belfast Tall Ships event in 2009.
NamesakeEthniu, a tragic heroine in an early Irish romantic tale
BuilderVerolme Dockyard, Cork
Laid down15 December 1982
Launched19 December 1983
Commissioned7 December 1984
Decommissioned8 July 2022
HomeportHaulbowline Naval Base
StatusDecommissioned (awaiting disposal)[1]
General characteristics
TypeOffshore patrol vessel
Displacement1,920 tonnes (full load)
Length84.8 m (278 ft) overall
Beam12 m (39 ft)
Draught4.3 m (14 ft)
Speed37 km/h (20 kn) maximum
Complement86 (9 officers and 77 ratings)
Aviation facilitieshelicopter flight deck

Eithne (P31) was a patrol vessel in service with the Irish Naval Service. The ship is named after Eithne, a tragic heroine and the daughter of the one-eyed Fomorian King, Balor in an early Irish romantic tale. Eithne was the flagship of the Irish Naval Service.

Eithne was originally built as a Helicopter Patrol Vessel for long-range fisheries patrol vessel, intended to be at sea for up to 30 days. She is the only ship in her class, as the other planned members of the Eithne-class were never built.[2]

Decommissioned in July 2022 after 42 years with the Irish Naval Service, Eithne has been laid up awaiting scrapping since 2023.[1]


Eithne was designed to carry a SA365F Dauphin helicopter,[3] and was the only ship in the Irish Naval Service fleet to have a flight deck. Helicopter operations were limited primarily to the vessel's early years of service.[4] These operations stopped in later years, due in part to the purchase of CASA CN235-100MP Persuader Maritime Patrol Aircraft and decommissioning of the Dauphin helicopters. The vessel was fitted with retractable fin stabilisers to reduce rolling during helicopter operations at sea.


Eithne during her 2015 deployment to the Mediterranean

Eithne was the last ship of the Irish Naval Service to have been built in Ireland, constructed at Verolme Dockyard at Rushbrooke, County Cork and completed in 1984. Shipbuilding operations ceased at the yard in 1984, and the yard went into receivership.[2]

In July 2005 LÉ Eithne represented Ireland at the International Fleet Review at Portsmouth, England.[5]

In April–June 2006 Eithne travelled to Buenos Aires, Argentina, in the first-ever deployment of an Irish ship in the southern hemisphere, in order to participate in commemorations of the impending sesquicentenary of the death of Admiral William Brown who had been born in Ireland. The ship brought back a statue of Brown for display in Dublin.[6]

In 2014, asbestos was found on the ship necessitating a clean-up. Eithne was the third Naval Service vessel found to contain the cancer-causing substance, after asbestos was also found on board LÉ Ciara and LÉ Orla.[7]

In May 2015 Minister of Defence Simon Coveney announced the deployment of Eithne to the Mediterranean as part of the EU's ongoing rescue mission for migrants.[8] Together with other Naval Service vessels, between 2015 and 2017 Eithne undertook a number of deployments in the Mediterranean, rescuing several hundred migrants as part of each mission.[9][10][11][12]

In late 2018, the navigation systems onboard Eithne were upgraded to use a Warship Electronic Chart Display and Information System (WECDIS), reportedly making it the first vessel in the Naval Service fleet to "achieve paperless navigation".[13]

In mid-2019 LÉ Eithne, together with LÉ Orla, was "withdrawn from operations [..] indefinitely due to a lack of personnel".[14] The manner and messaging on the vessel's removal from service caused some controversy, as statements from the Minister of State at the Department of Defence Paul Kehoe (who suggested that the vessel was removed for "routine maintenance") contradicted previous statements made by Flag Officer Commander Mick Malone (who confirmed that the vessel would be tied-up "until adequate numbers of [..] personnel are available").[15]

In March 2020, Eithne was returned to active service and deployed to Cork as part of Ireland's response to the coronavirus pandemic, alongside NSR personnel and Army engineers.[16][17]


In July 2022 LÉ Eithne, together with LÉ Ciara and LÉ Orla, was decommissioned, to be replaced with a new multi-role vessel.[18]

Following her decommissioning, Cork County Council requested the transfer of Eithne to the city for preservation as a museum ship.[18] It was also reported, in early 2023, that the Dublin Port company also hoped to use the vessel as a museum ship in Dublin.[19] However, as of late 2023, the vessel was reputedly due to be "broken up for recycled scrap, after plans to convert the HPV into a museum came to nothing".[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "LÉ Eithne: Former Flagship of the Naval Service to Be Sent Overseas for Disposal At Scrap Recycling Facility". Afloat Magazine. 4 December 2023. Retrieved 5 December 2023.
  2. ^ a b Conrad Waters, ed. (2014). Seaforth World Naval Review 2015. Seaforth Publishing. p. 123. ISBN 9781848323308. Emer class vessels [..] were followed by the larger P31 class Eithne in 1984; the only helicopter-capable ship in the Irish Naval Service to date. Plans for additional members of the class were never progressed and the Verolme yard closed for lack of orders after Eithne was completed
  3. ^ Tom McCaughren. "RTÉ Archives - 1985 - Dauphin Helicopter For Irish Air Corps". rte.ie. RTÉ. Retrieved 23 June 2019.
  4. ^ Jehan Ashmore (27 October 2018). "Adverse Weather Forces LÉ Eithne to Open to Visitors in Dublin Port And Not Dun Laoghaire Harbour". afloat.ie. Afloat Magazine. Retrieved 23 June 2019. the use of the ship's design for French built 'Dauphine' helicopters were rarely used and took place early in the career of the 1,900 tonnes flagship
  5. ^ "International Fleet Review 2005 Souvenir Supplement". Navy News. July 2005. p. v.
  6. ^ Mark Mellett (February 2006). "Voyage diary: L.É. Eithne departs for Buenos Aires, Argentina". Irish Naval Service. Archived from the original on 28 April 2006. Retrieved 16 December 2006.
  7. ^ Daragh Brophy (3 June 2014). "Fleet-wide check under way after asbestos found on Naval ships". thejournal.ie. Journal Media Ltd. Retrieved 20 September 2014.
  8. ^ Pollak, Sorcha (5 May 2015). "LÉ Eithne to be dispatched in migrant search on May 8th". Irish Times. Retrieved 5 May 2015.
  9. ^ "LÉ Eithne rescues 519 migrants off coast of Libya". rte.ie. RTÉ News. 22 June 2015.
  10. ^ Ralph Riegel (22 May 2017). "LE Eithne to depart for Mediterranean rescue mission on Tuesday". independent.ie. Independent News & Media. Retrieved 23 June 2019.
  11. ^ Jehan Ashmore (12 June 2017). "Rescue of 346 Migrants by LÉ Eithne off Libya". afloat.ie. Afloat Magazine. Retrieved 23 June 2019.
  12. ^ Sean Murray (25 June 2017). "Irish naval vessel rescues over 180 refugees in the Mediterranean". thejournal.ie. Journal Media Ltd. Retrieved 23 June 2019.
  13. ^ Jehan Ashmore (11 December 2018). "Irish Naval Service Flagship First to Achieve "Paperless Navigation"". afloat.ie. Afloat Magazine. Retrieved 23 June 2019.
  14. ^ "Decision on Mediterranean rescue missions met with disappointment". irishtimes.com. Irish Times. 9 July 2019. Retrieved 2 November 2019.
  15. ^ "Internal documents show frustration over Naval Service ships controversy". irishtimes.com. Irish Times. 11 August 2019. Retrieved 2 November 2019.
  16. ^ O'Riordan, Sean (18 March 2020). "Navy returning LÉ Eithne to service as Cork Covid-19 testing centre". Irish Examiner. Retrieved 20 March 2020.
  17. ^ Roche, Barry (18 March 2020). "Coronavirus: Naval ships to become test centres; Páirc Uí Chaoimh also offered". The Irish Times. Retrieved 21 March 2020.
  18. ^ a b "Irish Navy decommissions a third of its fleet". irishtimes.com. Irish Times. 8 July 2022.
  19. ^ "Cork believed to have lost out on floating museum to Dublin Port". irishexaminer.com. Irish Examiner. 15 January 2023. Retrieved 16 January 2023.

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