Cashel granted its highest honour to Lieutenant Commander Marie Gleeson with a civic reception on Friday.
Mayor Joe Moloney led the honours to Lt Cmd Gleeson, who took command of the LE Aoife earlier this year, the first Cashel woman to captain an Irish naval vessel.
Marie attended Ballytarsna NS, the Presentation Convent Cashel, and completed her secondary education in the Community School, before joining the navy in December 1998. She was commissioned as an officer in September 2000. Marie served as XO and second-in-command on the LE Niamh in 2008 when it helped seize €750m of cocaine. Marie assumed command of the LE Aoife in May, only the fourth female in the history of the Irish Navy to do so. “This is the first time in the history of the State a female officer has handed over command of a state ship to another officer,” said the Mayor.
“Marie commands one of navy’s eight ships, and is the only serving female captain at sea.” She holds peacekeeping medals for services in Chad in 2009, and she and her husband John Prior are both active fundraising for Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, in memory of their baby son Ciarán.
Marie said she was lost for words at the honour, singling out primary teachers Chris Hayes and Julie Anne Ryan, as instrumental influences on her early life. “A lot of the drive and determination in me are down to these two particular women. The eight years in Ballystarna were a huge foundation for me. Chris and Julianne were tough at times, but they afforded us the opportunity for us as children to be who we are.” Marie also paid tribute to speech and drama teacher Eleanor O’Dwyer, Fr Bernie Moloney and Margaret Cully, all instilled confidence in her growing up. Marie said she was very proud of her Cashel roots, mentioning granddad Hugh Clancy, a postal official, and grandmother Nancy Clancy “a woman of sheer will and iron determination.”