Recurrent deep-water benthic communities, dominated by diverse tabulate corals, colonized soft substrates during the late Llandovery transgression in western Ireland. A number of autochthonous shelly assemblages dominated by brachiopods, corals and crinoids occur in the upper parts of the Kilbride Formation; the highest and most distal levels are dominated by in situ tabulate corals that are mantled by a thin layer of volcanic ash. Most of the coral colonies could cope with limited sedimentation: growth ceased after the volcaniclastic surge. This catastrophic mode of preservation permits an accurate analysis of an early stage of community development in deep-water benthos on a soft Llandovery seabed, periodically swept by volcaniclastic debris. The Kilbride faunas have implications for the palaeoenvironments and taphonomy of deep-water marine faunas associated with areas of active volcanism.