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Enda Kenny offers 'deepest sympathy' over death of Dara Fitzpatrick

Enda Kenny has said his thoughts are with the families of the crew of the Coast Guard helicopter that vanished off the Irish coast.

Speaking from the US, where he is to meet President Donald Trump at the White House, the Taoiseach was being kept up to date with developments off Blacksod, which is in his Mayo constituency.

"I learned late last night of the lack of communication with Rescue 116 and to hear the tragic news this morning, on behalf of the government I want to issue our deepest sympathy in respect of the family of Captain Dara Fitzpatrick, and the search continues arising from this particular tragedy."

Mr Kenny added: " Clearly, the analysis and investigation into this, we want to uncover what exactly happened in respect of the lack of communication and loss of contact with rescue helicopter 116."

Transport Minister Shane Ross said he was deeply concerned about the incident and offered his support and sympathy for all those involved, "particularly those family members who are awaiting news of their loved ones".

"This is an extremely difficult time for all concerned," he added.

Sinn Fein fisheries spokesman Martin Ferris paid tribute to the "selfless service" of the Coast Guard in saving lives.

"The rescue helicopters are a welcome sight, not just on the deck of a boat in trouble, but also to those injured and stranded on Ireland's mountains," he said.

"This has been a painful year for the Coast Guard, having lost their comrade Caitriona Lucas last September."

Ms Lucas, a Coast Guard volunteer, died during the search for a missing man off the coast of Co Clare.

"This is testament to their bravery and dedication," Mr Ferris said.

"My thoughts are with the families, comrades and friends of the man recovered and those still to be found."

Impact Trade Union, which represents helicopter flight crews, also offered its support.

"The thoughts of all Impact members are with the families and colleagues of the crew of Rescue 116 as we await news from the search efforts," a spokesman said.

Health Minister Simon Harris said the helicopter crew represented all that is good about Ireland.

"They epitomise courage, bravery, selflessness and dedication to the welfare of others," he said.

"These traits were all on display again overnight on our west coast."

He added: "Often at times of great difficulty and sadness, we see people pull together - this has been so evident today as the ongoing, collective effort of our emergency services and the local community work together on this search mission.

"Our hearts go out to the families of the crew, their colleagues, their communities and all in the emergency services community at this time of great sorrow."

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