New £340k life boat station opens at Kinnego Marina on Lough Neagh with life boat launched in memory of Gary Breen

A new lifeboat, bought with funds raised by the family of a Co Armagh man who lost his life in Lough Neagh, was officially launched last weekend.

Gary Breen was just 24 years old when he drowned 30 years ago after getting into difficulties in the Lough. He had been trying to swim to shore after his boat broke down.

In an emotional ceremony, the £85k life boat, named Gary Breen, was officially launched in the presence of his family at Kinnego Marina on Saturday afternoon. It has been refurbished with £60k raised by his family towards the cost. Work on the life boat was carried out by Inland Inflatable Boats Ltd in Sligo, which provides boats for the Irish Coastguard.

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It coincided with the official opening of the new £340k Lough Neagh Rescue life boat station at Kinnego Marina funded partially by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA). Minister Edwin Poots cut the ribbon to officially open the new lifeboat and praised the worked carried out by volunteers at the station.

Also attending were politicians from the main political parties including Department for Infrastructure Minister John O’Dowd who is an Upper Bann MLA as well as Ulster Unionist Party leader Doug Beattie, also an Upper Bann MLA. Mayor of Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council Cllr Paul Greenfield was in attendance as was SDLP Cllr Declan McAlinden who is from the lough shore.

In an emotional ceremony, the £85k life boat, named Gary Breen, was officially launched in the presence of his family at Kinnego Marina on Saturday afternoon. It has been refurbished with £60k raised by his family towards the cost.

Lough Neagh Rescue was founded in July 1989 following the tragic drowning of Portadown builder David Gray Jnr and since has saved hundreds of lives. At the event on Saturday was Peter Bleakley who was with David Gray and two others on the boat on Lough Neagh when they got into difficulties. At that time there was no official life service on Lough Neagh, despite it being the largest freshwater lake in the UK and Ireland covering around 383 square kilometers. At its longest it spans 30.5km and narrowest at 12.1km. Peter said he had called the RUC at the time but they couldn’t help as had no boat.

Peter recalls how their boat was toppled in high waves during a sudden storm forcing them into the water. They swam for five hours until help arrived but sadly David Gray perished.

Paddy Prunty, a founder member of Lough Neagh Rescue, recalled getting a call that someone was in difficulty in the Lough. Then he had a Craigavon Council boat and, with Billy Mullen who lives close to Kinnego Marina, they went in separate boats to scour the lake in pitch darkness. They eventually found three of the boat occupants and brought them to shore.

David Gray’s father, with Paddy Prunty and Billy Mullen then founded Lough Neagh Rescue and raised funds for its first lifeboat.

The new Lough Neagh Rescue lifeboat station at Kinnego Marina on the shores of Lough Neagh was officially launched on Saturday (September 24, 2022). At the launch was Paddy Prunty, a founding member of Lough Neagh Rescue, Lord Mayor of Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council Paul Greenfield, Anne Mullen with her husband Billy, also a founding member of Lough Neagh Rescue and SDLP Cllr Declan McAlinden.

Now there are three rescue stations around Lough Neagh, at Kinnego, Ardboe and at Six Mile Water on the north shore in Co Antrim. From small beginnings LNR has 60 members – and all are volunteers.

They regularly run fundraisers to keep the running costs of the station and life boats going and to provide up to date kit for the volunteers.

The team was called out 57 times last year and has responded to more than 30 call outs so far in 2022.

A new lifeboat, the Gary Breen, was launched on Lough Neagh at Kinnego Marina, Craigavon in memory of a local man who lost his life 30 years ago.
The new Lough Neagh Rescue lifeboat station at Kinnego Marina on the shores of Lough Neagh was officially launched on Saturday (September 24, 2022). At the launch was Lord Mayor of Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council Paul Greenfield, Finn Mullen with his father Billy, a founding member of Lough Neagh Rescue who helped rescue Peter Bleakley, from Lough Neagh in 1989. His friend David Gray sadly drowned and that sparked the launch of Lough Neagh Rescue.
Darren Mallon., Chairperson of Lough Neagh Rescue with Minister for the Department of Environment And Rural Development Edwin Poots at the official opening of Lough Neagh Rescue's new station at Kinnego Marina on Saturday September 24, 2022.