Consistent champion for the Irish motorist, AA Ireland, this week celebrates its 100th Birthday. The motoring organisation has been serving Irish motorists since it was established in Ireland in 1910.
The AA is celebrating the milestone with a special section on its website www.aaireland.ie reflecting the history of the last 100 years. AA has been serving motorists in good times and bad, and is marking its birthday with a special centenary discount of €100 on AA memberships to customers who purchase AA Motor or Home Insurance between now and Tuesday, 19th October.
“It’s with enormous pride that AA Ireland reaches this milestone birthday.” Says AA Ireland’s CEO, Pat Kiely. “During our 100 year legacy we’ve seen downturns come and go and we’ve seen vehicle ownership skyrocket from 7870 registered vehicles in 1910 to 2.2 million today. Through all this, the AA has been there to consistently look after the interests of Irish motorists.”
“Our longevity comes down to one thing – stretching the boundaries to offer our customers the best possible service.” Says Kiely. “This is true across all our services from our advocacy work, Roadside Rescue, Service & Repair, Fuel Assist and motor, home and travel insurance products.”
Today AA Ireland employs 450 staff and is the largest and best equipped roadside rescue fleet in the country. As it enters its next century, AA Ireland prioritizes investment in new technologies such as next generation ‘Vixen’ laptops, a powerful diagnostic tool which plugs into a car engine’s management system.
“During my time as an AA patrolman, cars have become a lot more sophisticated.” Comments Jim Gorman, who with 35 years service, is AA Ireland’s longest serving Patrolman. “These days cars have many Electronic Control Units (ECUs). Life certainly isn’t boring as an AA Patrolman; we’re always being trained up in the best new technologies. I’m excited at the prospect of the move away from combustion engines to electric vehicles, something I never thought I’d see during my career.”
Whilst vehicles and other technologies have come a long way, one hundred years on from its launch at College Green, the AA still finds itself tackling the same issues that plagued motorists in 1910. Pot holes, sign posting, unfair taxes, speed limits, permits and car theft among others remain on the AA’s agenda to this day.
A SHORT HISTORY OF AA IRELAND
The AA was first established in Ireland in 1910 at no. 12 College Green in the centre of Dublin. From the outset, there were three specific objectives:
The first system of warning and directional signs in Ireland were installed free of charge by the AA, a generous and far-sighted commitment to the Irish motorist. Within a year of the Association’s establishment in Ireland 4,000 signs had been installed and many more were planned.
Signposting was to occupy the AA in Ireland extensively for the following forty years and more. From a very poor start, Ireland came to be regarded as one of the best signposted countries in Europe. It is a proud legacy for the Association that many of those original signs are still standing.
The Irish Free State was established in 1922, severing almost all ties with the United Kingdom. From that time, the AA issued customs documents for vehicles entering and leaving the country. This was a serious responsibility, and formed an important part of the Association’s work for many years.
The story behind the quaint ‘AA Salute’ is an interesting one. In the early years of motoring prohibitively low speed limits were introduced along with speed traps to enforce them. The AA told its Members that their Patrols would warn of speed traps ahead by saluting cars with AA badges displayed. Exasperated authorities proclaimed this to be illegal, and ordered them to stop. “All right”, said the AA, “We hereby inform our Members that their cars will always be saluted unless there’s a speed trap ahead.” The tradition endured for years.
The mid 1920’s saw the arrival of the first AA Patrols in Ireland. The distinctive yellow and black combination motorcycles were the country’s first Rescue Service for motorists, and the predecessors of today’s modern fleet. The Patrols would literally traverse along a given route watching out for any AA Member that was in trouble or needed help. On some routes the Patrols literally carried their tools on a bicycle. It was the end of the 1920s by the time entire fleet was mechanized.
Growth in Technology
The late fifties and early sixties saw a transition to a more modern era. In 1956 Radio Controlled Breakdown Service was introduced in the Dublin area. No longer did the stranded motorist have to rely on flagging a Patrol down. They could now be contacted and directed on the move.
In 1966 the Patrol Force was completely re-organised. The motorcycles were replaced by more efficient minivans; Radio Control Centres were established in Cork and at other centres to cover the whole country.
The AA was evolving into the ultra-modern motoring support organisation that it is today.
In 1977 AA Ireland entered the general insurance market in Ireland making the natural progression to launch car and home insurance services. Today AA Ireland has well in excess of 100,000 motor insurance customers and 50,000 Home Insurance customers. Travel insurance has also been added to the AA’s insurance suite.
AA Roadwatch was established in 1989 to provide traffic information in the form of live radio broadcasts. AA Roadwatch now provides traffic and travel information to national and local radio stations and provides a very comprehensive travel website at www.aaroadwatch.ie. During the cold snap at the start of the year, its pages were being read at a rate of more than a million per week.
AA on the Web
The AA’s website www.aaireland.ie – which launched in 2000 allows AA customers to buy membership, home, motor and travel insurance on line. There is also a huge range of information available, including motoring tips and news, a comprehensive route planning service and details about AA products and services.
AA is offering a special centenary discount of €100 on AA memberships to customers who purchase AA Motor or Home Insurance between now and Tuesday, 19th October. The offer is available at 01 6179950 and on www.aaireland.ie and will run until midnight on Tuesday 19th October. Full details, including terms & conditions, available at www.aaireland.ie
B. The following additional photographs will be available at http://www.flickr.com/photos/aaireland/ as and from pm Sunday 10th October:
Articles featured include:
(Articles reproduced with permission from the Irish Times Archives.)