Their invaluable work has been recognised during a difficult couple of years

The Irish Coast Guard has been revealed as a People of the Year Award winner.

Search & Rescue Operations Manager, Gerard O'Flynn and Ger Hegarty, Divisional Controller at the Marine Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Dublin received the award at Royal Hospital Kilmainham.

The award recognises the crew of Rescue 116, who tragically lost their lives off the Mayo coast last March, and volunteer member Caitríona Lucas, who died during an earlier operation. The community of Erris will also be recognised for their outstanding contribution to the search for the missing Rescue 116 crew and the record search conducted.

On March 14, 2017, Coast Guard helicopter Rescue 116 disappeared off the north coast of Mayo. The aircraft had been providing communications support for an offshore medical assistance operation. On board were Capt Dara Fitzpatrick, Capt Mark Duffy and winch team Paul Ormsby and Ciarán Smith.

Hundreds of volunteers, fishermen, and colleagues supported the emergency services in combing the area for the missing crew, going above and beyond in a bid to recover the lost heroes.

The bodies of Dara Fitzpatrick and Mark Duffy were recovered in the subsequent searches. However, tragically and despite intensive efforts, the bodies of Ciarán Smith and Paul Ormsby have not yet been recovered.

Just six months previously, the Irish Coast Guard community had suffered another devastating loss with the passing of their brave colleague, volunteer member Caitríona Lucas, who had been participating in a search operation off the coast of Kilkee, Co. Clare.

People of the Year Awards is the longest running Irish awards event and acknowledges courage, bravery and heroism.

Search & Rescue Operations Manager, Gerard O'Flynn, says it's heartening that the public recognises the work of the Coastguard;

"It's very reassuring that this recognition is there. Obviously we have lost five people in very recent times, rescuers who became casualties.

I would hope that their families also, would take some strength from the recognition that's being given to the organisation at this time.

And I think it's a tribute to their memory that this award is being presented to us."

 The main ceremony organised by Rehab will take place on Sunday night at the Mansion House in Dublin: