A CASTLEHAVEN man has taken the helm of a new group representing the concerns of Irish Coast Guard volunteers.
John O’Mahony is chair of the Irish Coast Guard Volunteers Representative Association (ICGVRA), consisting of existing and former volunteers.
The group was launched recently in Kilkee and among those attending was international maritime lawyer, Michael Kingston from Goleen.
Many volunteers both past and present spoke movingly about the importance of having an independent association to represent their interests.
John said: ‘In the history of the Irish Coast Guard there has never been an independent voice to speak on behalf of the volunteers as a collective, to ensure that the well-being of volunteers from their perspective is at the heart of best practice policies within.
‘There’s no such thing as 9 to 5 for Irish Coast Guard volunteers, who are on call 24 hours day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Volunteers respond to call-outs whatever the weather, often abandoning pre-made plans or leaving loved ones behind with nothing more than “I’ll text you when I get a chance.” You might ask, why do they do this? It’s the willingness to serve and the desire to protect.
‘But who protects those who volunteer to protect the rest of us?’
Bernard Lucas, vice chair said: ‘Volunteers are central to the strength and capability of the Coast Guard Units and their value must be prioritised. For far too long volunteers have had no voice. The time is now to stand together for the betterment of the Coast Guard as a whole and its volunteers.’
ICGVRA is now seeking an urgent meeting with Transport Minister, Eamon Ryan.