Protests as rescue boat remains out of service
The Irish Coast Guard has confirmed that a volunteer unit's primary search and rescue boat will not return to service until crew members have been fully trained and accredited.
The Kilkee unit of the service in Co Clare does have a second smaller boat which is available to respond to incidents. However, it can't operate in the same adverse conditions the main boat is designed to deal with.
The original Delta rigid inflatable boat (RiB) was destroyed in the same incident that claimed the life of Doolin-based Irish Coast Guard volunteer Caitriona Lucas in September 2016.
The boat was replaced just a fortnight after the tragedy but hasn't been available to respond to emergencies since.
The unit's second smaller D-class boat remains operational and available to respond to some incidents depending on weather and sea conditions.
Locals in Kilkee, who have already staged two small protests in the town, have been calling for full search and rescue resources to be reinstated in the West Clare resort and have called on the Coast Guard to make this happen as soon as possible.
Niall Ferns, volunteer and training services manager with the Irish Coast Guard, said: "Kilkee Coast Guard Unit are currently resourced with a D-Class boat for response to emergencies. The RiB is on station as a training boat and will not be made operational until the unit members have attained the necessary competencies.
"The unit will also be required to pass an ORA (Operational Readiness Audit) in line with current Irish Coast Guard national policy," he said.
Mr Ferns added: "A training rigid inflatable boat was replaced at the Kilkee Coast Guard station from September 29, 2016.
"This boat has been assigned to Kilkee Coast Guard Unit as a training boat and will remain non-operational during the training phase. The D-Class boat is currently the Kilkee Coast Guard Unit response boat for emergencies."
Despite not having their main rescue boat available to them, Kilkee unit volunteers have continued to respond to incidents since the September 2016 tragedy.
Unit members have responded to search and rescue operations, missing persons searches, ambulance and fire service assist calls, including two in the past fortnight.