Tuesday, 16 June 2020
Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport
Search and Rescue Service Provision
829. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to reintroduce the cliff rescue section in Gweedore, County Donegal, which was disbanded a number of years ago; the amount saved by closing this particular cliff rescue section; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10736/20]
The provision of Irish Coast Guard cliff rescue services in Donegal is currently provided by the Greencastle, Mulroy and Killybegs Coast Guard Units. There is also an ability to transport any of these three units to an island on the Sligo based Coast Guard Rescue helicopter. There are currently 17 strategically placed Coast Guard units around the coast who provide cliff rescue capabilities. There has been further development of these units in 2019 with the issuing of new equipment.
A Value for Money review of the Coast Guard service, published in 2012, recommended the continuation of boat and shoreline rescue service and cessation of cliff training for the Bunbeg unit which is twinned with Tory Island. The strategic decision was to retain cliff rescue services in neighbouring CGUs, Mulroy and Killybegs. The recommendation arose principally because of the non-utilisation of the cliff service balanced against the safety considerations of delivering a highly technical and intrinsically hazardous activity.
The Coast Guard, having monitored the demand for cliff rescue services has noted that the level of call outs responded to by Bunbeg/Tory Island CGU does not justify the maintenance of a cliff rescue service. For a CGU to engage in a high risk activity that demands a high level of resources in terms of training time, equipment and supervision, the benefits must clearly outweigh the risks. The maintenance of a cliff rescue team has been deprioritised, thus enabling the unit to concentrate on its boat rescue and shoreline search operations, which are regularly called into action. The investment which my Department has made in the Coast Guard rescue helicopter services has mitigated some of the demands for cliff rescue services.
The Bunbeg/Tory Island CGU will continue to be a well-resourced team while the enhancement of boat rescue services and shoreline search by the unit will continue to be the priority based on need and risk.