Wednesday, 24 November 2021
Merchant Shipping (Investigation of Marine Casualties) (Amendment) Bill 2021: Second Stage
Brian Leddin (Limerick City, Green Party)
I welcome this Bill. It is urgent given, as the Minister of State, Deputy Naughton, pointed out, the need to appoint additional independent members in light of the resignation of two officials from the Department of Transport in accordance with the court ruling. I pay tribute to Deputies Mattie McGrath and Jackie Cahill, and others, for their work on this issue in the previous Dáil.
It is appropriate at this point to acknowledge the grief experienced by families around the country. The marine environment is an unforgiving environment and we still have a significant level of marine casualties. We owe it to families who have lost loved ones to properly investigate marine accidents and their causes to ensure we identify what we can do to avoid accidents in the future.
It is important that there is public confidence in the investigation of marine accidents. There was a tragic accident near the Salmon Weir in Thomondgate on 23 February 2019. I was present when 12-year-old Amy Mulcahy was brought ashore at the city slipway at O'Callaghan Strand. The accident shocked the tight-knit rowing community in Ireland and throughout the world because it involved hair entanglement in a rowing boat. As far as I and the national and international rowing governing bodies are aware, this had not happened before. I am thinking of the Mulcahy family today, particularly Amy who suffered life-changing injuries that day. A report into that accident was published by the Marine Casualty Investigation Board last month. I have misgivings about one of the findings in the report, namely, that personal flotation devices should have been worn or should have been required to be worn. In my view, as a rowing coach and an experienced rower, that could have caused greater difficulty in that particular case or in other capsize situations.
I express my support for Rowing Ireland. It operates on a tiny budget compared with many other sporting organisations. I believe there is a strong safety culture in Rowing Ireland. Despite its very limited budget, it is very serious about safety in rowing. In all my years of rowing with St. Michael’s Rowing Club in Limerick, there has always been a heavy emphasis on safety at club level and it was always clear that there was a national focus on safety in rowing.
Other Deputies have outlined the importance of sufficiently resourcing the Marine Casualty Investigation Board. I agree with Deputy Cathal Crowe that it seems like marine is the poor relation when compared with rail and air accident investigation. I agree with the Deputies who stated we need to sufficiently resource the Marine Casualty Investigation Board to ensure public confidence in the investigation of marine accidents.