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Co Donegal brothers' courage formally recognised 63 years after sea rescue

Brothers James and Michael Gallagher rescued 13 people from the sea in August 1956
Seamus McKinney

THE courage of two brothers has been formally recognised 63 years after they rescued 13 people from almost certain death.
James (85) and Michael 'Red Mickey' (80) Gallagher, from Burtonport in Co Donegal, were presented with National Bravery Awards by the Houses of the Oireachtas for their actions after the passengers of a boat, many of them young children, were thrown into the sea.
Their father Michael was posthumously honoured at the ceremony at Farmleigh House in Dublin’s Phoenix Park.
On the morning of August 22 1956 the brothers were lobster fishing with their father on the family’s half-decker, the Irine.
As they fished in Roan Inish sound, off Portnoo, they saw a punt come into the area carrying 18 people, many from Northern Ireland.
A breeze sent wash over the bow, forcing all on board to the stern. However, their movement swamped the outboard engine, throwing all 18 into the sea.
The Gallaghers threw ropes to drag people from the sea and hauled them on board the Irine. As they did so, another fishing boat joined the rescue.
However, as two young Belfast brothers attempted to swim to the second vessel, one - Christopher Chambers (seven) - became caught in its propeller and died.
With the child’s body trapped under the boat, the Gallaghers got a line on board and towed the stricken vessel to safety.
Dublin-based businessman Desmond McVitty (49), originally from Enniskillen, and Enniskillen solicitor George Warren (55) also died.
Mr McVitty’s body was not recovered for three weeks.
The annual awards recognise those who have risked their lives to save others. They were chaired on Friday by Dáil ceann comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl.
He read out the citation, which said: “For their actions, James Gallagher (senior) and Mickey (Red Michael) Gallagher are awarded a bronze medal and certificate of bravery. Michael Gallagher senior is awarded a posthumous bronze medal and certificate of bravery.”
Mr Ó Fearghaíl said the awards provided an opportunity to celebrate the courage of emergency services and people who risked their own safety to save others.
“It is important to recognise the sacrifices made by people whose selflessness can serve to remind us of our duty of care to one another," he said.
"It is an honour to present these 20 bravery awards today, including the posthumous award, and I thank all recipients for their courage."

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