The Asgard II (above): sank in the Bay of Biscay in 2008; plans for a replacement have been 'deferred indefinitely' according to Willie O'Dea

A FINAL decision not to save the sunken Asgard II was made after the head of the Naval Service said he would not allow his children on it if it was refloated.

At a meeting of Coiste an Asgard, Commodore Frank Lynch, the highest ranking naval officer in Ireland, said he would have "serious reservations" about salvaging the craft. According to minutes of that meeting: "Commodore Lynch... said that substantial expenditure on the refurbishment of a 27-year-old vessel was not justified and maintenance costs would begin to increase after 30 years.

"He also indicated that if one of his children was considering a voyage on the refurbished Asgard II, he would have serious reservations in the matter and would probably refuse permission."

Two other board members at the meeting in February 2009 agreed with "this sentiment" and a final decision to leave the sunken vessel alone was agreed.

The Asgard II, which provided sail training for youngsters, sunk 20 miles off the coast of France in the Bay of Biscay in September 2008. The five crew and 20 trainees on the ship had to use emergency lifeboats to escape but there were no injuries. At a meeting of Coiste an Asgard last February, a decision was made to replace the Asgard II with a steel-hulled vessel using a €3.8m insurance payment. However, a delay in the plans may have doomed the entire project as its abolition was recommended by the report of An Bord Snip Nua.

In April of last year, defence minister Willie O'Dea wrote to finance minister Brian Lenihan asking that a replacement vessel be approved.

He wrote: "Asgard II was built at a time of severe economic difficulty in this country. During her 27 years of service, she more than repaid the money invested in her through the unique training and development experience that she gave to thousands of young Irish men and women.

"I am strongly of the view that the insurance payment should be used to fund the cost of a new vessel. To do otherwise would be seen in an extremely negative light.

"I propose to proceed with the next stage of the procurement process, namely, to seek the submission of proposals from suitable contractors for the construction of a new vessel."

By October, the report of An Bord Snip Nua had been finalised and Minister Willie O'Dea told the Dáil that plans for a replacement had been "deferred indefinitely". The McCarthy report said the discontinuation of the scheme could save up to €800,000 a year.

The following month, the directors of Coiste an Asgard made a direct appeal to the Department of Defence to save the programme. A document prepared by Pat Hogan, the head of corporate services , said: "Coiste an Asgard is lottery funded by means of a grant-in-aid paid through the Defence Vote. No fees are paid to directors, all of whom contribute freely of their time and expertise to the scheme.

"One has to question Mr [Colm] McCarthy's knowledge and realisation of the impact of such a decision at the stroke of a pen. Mr McCarthy's recommendation that the insurance payment be surrendered to the Exchequer is of course a comment that can only come to be expected from an economist, and in his eyes, it's easy money and at no political expense."