Coast Guard stations to remain open
Published 28/11/2012 | 18:44
Maritime officers at the three Irish Coast Guard stations will have to adopt new efficient working regimes after the Government opted to keep them open.
Fears had grown that Dublin, Malin and Valentia would be shut down in a cost-cutting drive after a value for money report was handed to the Government in the summer.
Leo Varadkar, Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, under whose remit the Irish Coast Guard falls, said he decided to keep the stations open after careful consideration.
"Through the utilisation of the most modern communications and IT infrastructure across a single national Coast Guard network, I will be proposing that the three centres will be more closely aligned and integrated," he said.
"Therefore the current structure of three Coast Guard centres in Dublin, Malin and Valentia will continue to provide their current service but will be required to deliver new efficiencies in how these services are provided."
The main finding of the Fisher Associates report which examined standards of Ireland maritime authorities, was that Ireland is poorly prepared for a major coastal pollution incident. It also pointed to communication weaknesses in the Coast Guard and in training volunteers.
Supporters for retention of the three stations claimed local knowledge during search and rescue missions would be lost if staff were forced to operate out of a centralised base in Dublin.
Joe McHugh, Fine Gael TD for Donegal North East, said the decision was a victory for common sense.
Elsewhere, Mr Varadkar hit out at criticisms levelled during an Oireachtas committee hearing on the issue of the Coast Guard stations, telling the Dail: "While most of those in attendance, including Deputy McHugh, engaged constructively on the matter, there were a small number of members whose contribution was deeply unfair and unjustified."
A team of external consultants has been tasked with devising new working regimes in the stations.