'Jeanie should replace sunken Asgard II'

SIMON BROUDER

FINE Gael defence spokesman and north Kerry TD Jimmy Deenihan has criticised Defence Minister Willie O'Dea for his hesitation following the sinking of the Asgard II last year.

This week the government announced it would not attempt to salvage the vessel, which now lies at the bottom of the Bay of Biscay.

The government has, so far, rejected calls from Deputy Deenihan, who raised serious concerns about the Asgard's seaworthiness a year before the ship sank, to use the Blennerville built Jeanie Johnston as a replacement national sail training vessel.

Deputy Deenihan said the decision not to salvage the Asgard II was inevitable given the hesitation shown by the Minister for Defence in the period immediately after the sinking of the vessel on September 11 of last year.

"It is over five months since the Asgard II sank in the Bay of Biscay. In that time any chance that the vessel would be recovered were seriously undermined by the Minister's own hesitancy on the matter. Not one, but two, salvage feasibility surveys were commissioned in that period and the available weather windows were wasted when a salvage operation was possible," he said.

Deputy Deenihan reiterated his call for the replica famine ship the Jeanie Johnston to be pressed into service as a replacement sail training vessel. However, he admitted there appears to be little hope that this will come to pass.

"The Jeanie is an ideal replacement and has been used for training in the past," he said "Unfortunately it seems there are some individuals whose minds are closed when it comes to the Jeannie."

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