December 19, 1983
The Irish Naval Service vessel LĖ Eithne (P31) was launched at Verolme Cork Dockyard at Great Island in Ireland’s Cork Harbour. The prefix “LĖ” stands for “Long Ėiereannach,” which means “Irish ship” in the Irish language, a.k.a., Gaelic; “Eithne” refers to an Irish mythology character whose father was a one-eyed supernatural king named Balor. P31 is the hull number, or serial identification number, for the vessel.
Eithne is the flagship of the Irish Naval Service and was the last vessel of this military branch to have been built in Ireland. (Shipbuilding operations at Verolme Cork Dockyard ended in 1984.) Originally intended to be a long-range fisheries patrol vessel, Eithne is the only ship in the Irish Naval Service to have a flight deck.
Eithne has achieved various other claims to fame since being launched. In 1986, for example, the ship became the first Irish Naval Service vessel to cross the Atlantic Ocean when she sailed to the United States. Another milestone took place in 2006 when Eithne – in the first deployment of an Irish military ship in the Southern Hemisphere – traveled to Buenos Aires to participate in ceremonies commemorating the 150th anniversary of the death of the Irish-born Argentine naval hero William Brown. When Eithne returned to Ireland, she brought along a statue of Brown that is now on display in Dublin.
More recently, Eithne has participated in the European Union’s rescue operations on behalf of migrants. A notable large-scale effort in this regard occurred in June 2015, when the ship rescued 519 migrants altogether from a total of three vessels in the Mediterranean Sea and transported those individuals to safety in Italy.
For more information on LĖ Eithne (P31), please check out http://www.military.ie/naval-service/fleet/helicopter-patrol-vessel/le-eithne-p31/.
Additional information on Eithne’s 2015 rescue of migrants in the Mediterranean Sea is available at https://www.rte.ie/news/2015/0622/709770-le-eithne/.