RNLI marks 190 years of saving lives

The First Minister was among those being taken on trips around Belfast harbour today as a lifesaving nautical charity marked nearly two centuries in existence.

The RNLI took out Peter Robinson, a number of journalists and a raft of Belfast businessmen on one of its Severn-class boats, showing off the craft and explaining what they do.

RNLI volunteer Philip McNamara

RNLI volunteer Philip McNamara

This year marks 190 years since the organisation was founded, and the outings came before the annual RNLI awards,to be held in the evening in the Titanic centre.

The purpose of today was to promote the charity, help obtain support, and give some a chance to tell their stories.

Philip McNamara, 53, makes his living as a fisherman in Donaghadee.

But for the last quarter-of-a-century he has volunteered with the RNLI too.

He said the last couple of times he had been in Belfast was when he was searching for a woman who had jumped off a Stena Line ferry in May 2012, and two months before that when the Union Moon collided with a passeneger ship.

Asked why he is involved, he said: “I really do just enjoy it. I find it amazing that you set off a pager at 3am on a winter’s morning, it’s raining, and a crew turns up to man a lifeboat. It’s an amazing service”.

Derek Rea, 39, is an RNLI mechanic in Larne – and the only one of out of 28 in his station to receive a salary.

“We’ve got everybody from students to teachers, managers of factories – across the board,” he said.