Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Wednesday, 24 October 2012
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communications
Review of Irish Coast Guard Service: Discussion
I do not represent any of the constituencies affected by Malin or Valentia, but some of the recommendations in the Fisher Associates review are of genuine concern to the maritime community. Many of them concern the operating structures in place in Valentia and Malin and the confidence and professionalism in the fishing, leisure and general maritime industry which has been displayed for decades in what is a difficult and challenging coastline. I note several incidents have taken place, for example, the incident with Rambler 100, where, were it not for the expertise and professionalism of the unit at Valentia, there is no doubt many lives would have been lost. The unit was able to predict where casualties had drifted almost to within metres, which was an extraordinary feat. I have serious concerns about the consultation process that took place between the consultants and the volunteer Coast Guard units along the coast. Their opinion could have been better portrayed, to say the least, in the review.
I am deeply concerned as to how the Coast Guard or the Department can show that amalgamating, closing, splitting or changing the work practices at either Malin Head or Valentia stations would help safety issues, particularly on the western seaboard, and how the consolidation of the centre in Dublin and a back-up centre, also in the Dublin area, would increase safety, irrespective of cost issues. According to the Fisher review, there are cost issues that would have to be dealt with in any event, whether through increased staff or deficiencies in pollution control mechanisms or protocols. The proposal to interact to a greater degree with the Marine Survey Office, the Coast Guard and-or other agencies as recommended should clearly address other issues, but sacrificing vitally important coastal safety infrastructure is a matter of concern to the maritime community. I am concerned as to how that could possibly improve safety issues. There are great people in those stations. I am strongly opposed to the recommendations. There may be other ways of dealing with the issue. It is timely that we can discuss the review prior to recommendations coming before the Minister.