'Majority of calls' to Coast Guard pranks

PRANK calls to the Coast Guard have increased almost 40-fold in three years after the search and rescue service was put on the '999' number to contact gardai, ambulances and the fire brigade.

The problem is now so bad – with 328 pranks last year and 369 in 2011 – that the "vast majority" of calls the Coast Guard fields are now hoax calls, which they have to ignore. It comes at a time when the Coast Guard is already under pressure because of funding cuts.

The figures were given to the Oireachtas Transport Committee by Junior Transport Minister Alan Kelly, who said it is hard to calculate the cost.

Mr Kelly said: "The vast majority of calls passed to the Coast Guard are a hoax, generally the caller hangs up when questioned by the Coast Guard control rooms."