Written answers

Wednesday, 10 November 2021

Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport

Coast Guard Service

Photo of Thomas PringleThomas Pringle (Donegal, Independent)
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66. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the expected response times for call-outs for cliff rescue emergencies in the islands off the County Donegal coast, including Aran Mór, Owney and Gola Island; the way these times differ since the downgrading of the cliff rescue element of the Irish Coast Guard station based in Bunbeg, Letterkenny, County Donegal (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54817/21]

Photo of Hildegarde NaughtonHildegarde Naughton (Galway West, Fine Gael)
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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 recent years 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 Coast Guard does not have unit or location specific records but continue to monitor all available data on a regular basis.


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