A GOVERNMENT deputy has dismissed claims of a threat to the Irish Coast Guard service, saying he has confirmed that there are no plans to amalgamate or reduce the service.
Cork South West FG deputy Jim Daly was responding to a statement by his constituency colleague, Independent TD Michael Collins, that there were fears the Coast Guard ‘may be disbanded’.
Deputy Collins is calling for legislation to be put in place immediately to secure the future of the service.
‘There are four primary response agencies in Ireland – the Fire Service, Ambulance Service, the Gardai and the Irish Coast Guard. The Irish Coast Guard is the only primary response agency that is not legislated for in this State,’ said Deputy Collins.
The Southern Star has seen a letter, being sent to TDs by the Irish Coast Guard, in which it expresses its fears. ‘We feel that until we are a fully legislated primary response agency, our service is constantly under threat and politics is being played, at our and the country’s expense, at every opportunity,’ the letter states. But Deputy Jim Daly said this week that he had held a meeting with the Taoiseach to discuss the concerns raised with him by team leaders of a West Cork branch of the volunteer Coast Guard.
‘The Taoiseach was not aware of any proposed changes to the volunteer Coast Guard and he put me in touch with the assistant director of the Coast Guard, Eugene Clonan,’ he told The Southern Star. ‘After speaking with Mr Clonan about this issue at length, I am satisfied that there are no proposed changes of any nature to reduce or amalgamate services provided by the Coast Guard in any way,’ he said.
Deputy Daly concluded by saying he had also received written confirmation that under the Framework for Major Emergency Management, the Coast Guard is designated a Principal Emergency Service, along with An Garda Siochana, the Fire Service and the Ambulance Service and there were no plans to change this.
However, the Coast Guard letter makes a strongly-worded plea: ‘There are currently only three sector managers for the entire country. They have the combined job of managing all the coastal units, which is a near impossible task, and would be lucky to visit each station a maximum of three times a year, which is totally insufficient.
‘There have been repeated promises of more fulltime staff which have never materialised. We currently require a minimum of another six sector managers and at least nine assistant sector manager positions to be made available immediately in order to provide the support required and deserved by the Coast Guard volunteer coastal units. Being a legislated primary response agency would enable the service to request the new positions directly to the Minister responsible,’ the letter states.
‘We need this legislation enacted at the first possible opportunity ... we cannot stress the importance of this.’