The Primate of All-Ireland has praised the ‘brave rescuers’ who saved 12 schoolboys and their football coach from a flooded Thai cave.
The 18-day ordeal riveted much of the world – from the awful news that the 13 were missing, to the first flickering video of the huddle of anxious yet smiling boys when they were found by a pair of British divers nearly 10 days later.
The group had entered the sprawling Tham Luang cave in northern Thailand to go exploring after football practice on 23rd June, but monsoon rains filled the tight passageways, blocking their escape, and pushing them deeper inside in search of refuge.
Eight of the boys were rescued by a team of 18 Thai and international divers on Sunday and Monday, with the remaining members of the group escaping the cave on Tuesday.
The Archbishop of Armagh, Eamon Martin, expressed his joy as news circulated, revealing that the mission had been successful.
‘Thanks be to God! Well done to the brave rescuers of the #ThaiCaveBoys and all who supported the search mission. We rejoice with all the families concerned @WMOF2018,’ he tweeted.
His tweet came only a day after he said people all over Ireland were praying for those involved in the rescue mission, those trapped and their friends and families.
Seven divers in the rescue team were from the UK, including Rick Stanton and John Volanthen, who were the first to reach the group last week.
“We are not sure if this is a miracle, a science, or what. All the thirteen Wild Boars are now out of the cave,” the Seals said, referring to the name of the boys’ football team.
“Everyone is safe.”
Archbishop Martin’s tweets came amid calls for the British divers, who helped rescue the boys, to be honoured.
Writing on Twitter, former Conservative Party treasurer Lord Ashcroft suggested Mr Stanton and Mr Volanthen could be awarded the George Cross or George Medal for their bravery.
The George Cross is the highest civilian honour in the United Kingdom and Commonwealth.
Others called for the pair to be given knighthoods for their ‘heroic efforts’.
Businesswoman Tracey Follows tweeted: ‘Knighthoods for the British divers involved please. True bravery and superhero status.’
Other figures paid tribute to the rescue team, including Oscar-winning US actress Marlee Matlin.
She tweeted: ‘Oceans of gratitude to the British Thai cave divers and Navy SEALs who got all 12 boys and their coach out of the cave.’
Former England captain Michael Vaughan wrote on Twitter: ‘Proud of the England Football team…But that’s just sport…More proud of the seven British divers that have helped save all those boys lives in Thailand.’
Mr Stanton, a fireman from Coventry, aged in his 50s, was made an MBE at the end of 2012.
He previously said his greatest achievement was helping rescue trapped British soldiers from a cave in Mexico in 2004.
Mr Volanthen, an IT consultant in his 40s and based in Bristol, was also part of a British team with Mr Stanton which reportedly set a world record for a deep underwater cave dive in Spain in 2010.
Mr Volanthen’s mother, Jill, told The Daily Telegraph: “We are absolutely so proud, but my sympathy is with the wife and family of the diver who lost his life.
“I would like to thank everybody for all their team work to get the lads out, it is absolutely lovely.”
Picture: Photo released by Royal Thai Navy on 10th July, 2018 shows the last four Thai Navy SEAL divers coming out safely after completing the rescue mission inside the Tham Luang cave, in Chiang Rai, Thailand. All 12 boys and their football coach have been rescued from a flooded cave in northern Thailand after being trapped for 18 days, rescuers said on Tuesday. The 12 young footballers, aged between 11 and 16, and their 25-year-old coach went missing during an excursion in Tham Luang cave in northern Thailand’s Chiang Rai Province since 23rd June. (Rachen Sageamsak/Xinhua News Agency/PA).