Republic of Ireland news

Irish navigator who led expedition to Rockall would have been 'amused' by row, son says

The volcanic islet of Rockall lies around 230 nautical miles north west of Donegal and 240 miles west of Scotland. Picture by SNH, Marine Scotland/Crown Copyright/Press Association

THE son of an Irish navigator who made an expedition to 'claim' Rockall in the 1970s has said his father would be "very amused" by the ongoing row over ownership of the North Atlantic islet.

The Scottish government has warned that its patrol boats will board Irish vessels fishing around the remote rock amid a row over fishing rights.

However, the Irish government said it does not recognise Britain's territorial claim to the islet which lies around 230 nautical miles north west of Donegal and 240 miles west of Scotland.

The Republic, Britain, Denmark and Iceland have all lodged claims for ownership of Rockall.

In 1975, an Irish expedition navigated by Michael d'Alton sailed from Dublin Bay to the rock.

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Mr d'Alton's son Mark yesterday said he would have been interested in the row over ownership.

"I think it's a Brexit-related try-on by the Scottish government. I guess I don't blame them for doing that," he told The Pat Kenny Show on Newstalk radio.

"I think my dad would have been very amused by the whole thing and also very engaged in it."

He added: "If he was still around I'd imagine he'd have already written a letter to The Irish Times."

Mark d'Alton said his father, who died in 2016, built his first boat when he was six and sailed all his life.

He volunteered for the British navy during the Second World War and helped land American tanks at Omaha beach during the D-Day landings.

Mr d'Alton said his father navigated the Irish expedition to Rockall using a sextant and the ancient method of dead reckoning.

"Finding Rockall in a tossing ocean using those navigational methods was quite an achievement."

He added: "There were four of them on the boat.

"There was Paul Campbell, John White, Willie Dick who was a well-known rock-climber, and my dad," he said.

"Paul and John stayed on the boat and my father and Willie got into an inflatable rubber dinghy, not a very large one, and they paddled over to the rock.

"The big challenge was just getting on it because there were fairly heavy swells as you can imagine right out there in the middle of the ocean.

"I know they had multiple attempts and it was Willie's strong nerve and I guess my father's rowing skills that eventually he (Willie) just leapt and grabbed and got on. He then climbed to the top, made an inscription on the flat there and claimed it on behalf of Ireland and left a tricolour there.

"All previous landings in modern times... were from a helicopter. My father always claimed and even wrote to The Irish Times on one occasion to say that any proper claim on a piece of land should be done either from land or from the sea."

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