By Bernie Commins

More than 100 cavers from all over Ireland and the UK travelled to the heartland of Irish caving, the beautiful Burren, Co. Clare, for the annual caving conference in October 2013.

A Speleological Union of Ireland (SUI) and Irish Cave Rescue Organisation (ICRO) event, SUICRO 2013 comprised two days of activities, lectures, demonstrations, trade stands, and workshops, with opportunities to purchase some shiny new gear, attend the AGMs of each organisation, catch up with caving mates, and venture underground, if the inclement weather – now synonymous with SUICRO – allowed it.

While SUICRO 2013 promised and delivered all the usual suspects, it also featured a number of firsts this year, making the event one of the most exciting for a number of years.

This year the event was widely publicised in Co. Clare, with an invitation extended to members of the public for the first time. Excellently designed posters, newspaper articles and an exclusive interview on Clare FM, revealed all about this event which was held in the Hotel Doolin over the bank holiday weekend.

Additionally, the SUI decided to hold one of its popular try caving events over the weekend. Launched in March 2013, the try-caving initiative is aimed at introducing safe caving to members of the public who would like to venture underground. Co-ordinated by the SUI’s development officer Gaelan Elliffe, it ensures that novice cavers are brought by qualified cave leaders on their first trip. The try-caving event took place on the Sunday of the symposium, when a number of eager novices turned up for some underground muddy action. They weren’t disappointed!

The Irish Cave Rescue Organisation decided to hold a rescue store open day for members of the public, as well as attendees of the symposium on the Saturday. The event was aimed at giving locals the opportunity to visit the store, meet ICRO personnel and learn about the organisation. The event also gave people the opportunity to see ICRO’s new Land Rover Defender, observe stretcher packaging and carrying, hot-point set-up, and a number of other rescue techniques demonstrated by ICRO guys and girls.


The highlight of this event was the official presentation of a defibrillator to the Doolin community who have been fundraising to purchase a number of them for various locations around the area.

ICRO purchased the defibrillator and it is mounted on the outside of the rescue store, but the local community will have all-year-round access to it.

“We were purchasing a defib for ICRO and when we learned that the community were looking to buy five for the area, we were more than happy to make this available to the community,” said John Kavanagh, ICRO’s first aid officer.

“Cavers have always been welcomed by the people of Doolin and this is our way of giving something back to the community,” he said.

Another first for SUICRO 2013, was the screening of the docu-drama ‘No Place on Earth’.

‘No Place on Earth’ tells the moving true story of how New York caver Christopher Nicola who, while exploring some of the longest caves in the world in southwestern Ukraine, uncovered the amazing story of how five Jewish Ukrainian families survived World War II by spending 511 days in a cave.

Organisers felt the film would resonate with the SUICRO audience, and would add a new dimension to the event. It was a move away from the traditional audio-visual presentations, but it paid off.

What made the screening even more special was the attendance of ‘No Place on Earth’ producer Susan Barnett, who coincidentally, happened to be visiting Ireland from New York, on the same weekend. To the organisers’ delight Ms Barnett decided to travel to Clare especially for the screening, which she revealed, was the Irish premiere. She spoke about the documentary and how excited she was that an audience of cavers and cave rescuers were viewing it in Ireland for the first time.

A range of excellent talks and presentations over the course of the weekend, featured cave photographer Chris Howes, who spoke about the history of cave photography, and also ran an extensive cave photography workshop.

Expedition reports on China and the Picos de Europa were presented by Ed Whelan and Brian McGavin respectively. ICRO members’ GRIMP Day exploits were presented by Dave Murtagh, while Paul Mackrill spoke about caving in the Chartreuse and Vercors regions in France and Ian Holmes spoke of Moulin exploration on the Gorner Glacier. There were Irish caving region updates from

Steve McCullough, Al Kennedy, Colin Bunce and an SUI update from chairperson John Duncan. An extremely entertaining table quiz was devised by Gar Devitt and his wife Allie Blay. The epic raffle saw a truly awesome array of prizes, for which the organisers (and indeed, winners) are extremely grateful! And at the end of it all, €1,700 was raised for ICRO – job well done.

So many people helped the small team of organisers make this event the success it was and organisers express their sincere thanks to all, as well as the sponsors who made the raffle one of the best yet: Scurion; Peli Ireland; Great Outdoors; Over the Ground (Richard Ziarnowski); Starless River (Tony Seddon); Chris Howes and Judith Calford; Bisun Lights; John Duncan and Kate Lavender-Duncan; Tim and Pam Fogg; Arch Safety; Inglesport; Brandon Agencies; Hugh Penny and Sarah Churlish; Sharon Devine; Ailwee Caves; Crag Caves; Marble Arch Caves; Hotel Doolin; Rainbow Hostel; McDermott’s; McGann’s, O’Connor’s; and Aille River Hostel; t-shirt and poster designer Petie Barry; Susan Barnett and Christopher Nicola.


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