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Bernard Lucas ready's himself for a cliff descent during the Technical Advisory Commission Cliff Rescue Assessment at the cliffs of Moher. Photograph by John Kelly.

Coast guard association is launched in Kilkee

THE Irish Coast Guard Volunteers Representative Association (“ICGVRA”), consisting of existing and former IRCG volunteers, was launched in Kilkee recently following a moving commemoration for Caitríona Lucas who lost her life on September 12, 2016.
During the ceremony Emma Lucas, daughter of Caitriona Lucas, placed a wreath for her mother, together with John O Mahony, Chairman ICGVRA, on the cliff top beside where she died when Kilkee’s Irish Coast Guard Delta Rib capsized.
Many Irish Coast Guard volunteers both past and present spoke about the importance of having an independent association to represent their interests.
ICGVRA vice-chairperson, Bernard Lucas said volunteers are central to the strength and capability of the Coast Guard Units and their value must be prioritised.
“For far too long volunteers have had no voice. The time is now to stand together for the betterment of the Coast Guard as a whole and its volunteers.”
The official launch was attended by Clare Oireachtas members Deputy Joe Carey and Senator Roisin Garvey, Senator Gerard Craughwell from Galway, Limerick Deputy Maurice Quinlivan, as well as international maritime lawyer, Michael Kingston.
Mr Lucas has floated the benefits of setting up a new national representative body for more than 700 volunteers nationwide with then Sports Minister Shane Ross in 2018.
Mr Lucas outlined the drawbacks for volunteers of not having a body to discuss genuine concerns and issues during a face-to-face 45-minute meeting with Minister Ross, which was facilitated by Senator Martin Conway.
Minister Ross was accompanied by one of his special advisors and a representative from the human resources department of the Coast Guard.
In an interview with the Clare Champion after this meeting, Mr Lucas said there was currently no proper structure for any volunteer to air any grievance or complaint they may have with an Officer in Charge (OIC) or senior officer.
Under the current structure, any volunteer who has an issue raises it with his officer in charge and if it remains unresolved it is then referred to the Coastal Unit Sector Manager (CUSM).
However, if a volunteer has a problem with his OIC, Mr Lucas claimed it is almost impossible to get this properly addressed under the current regime.
“Volunteers have no representative body and have no say in anything. You are not treated as a full time employee because you are a volunteer so you fall into this crack as a volunteer.
“Why can’t volunteers have representation? The unions will not take it on board because we are not employees. Volunteers are in limbo at the moment. The current system is not working.
“We should have representation because we are volunteers.”
ICGVRA chairman, John O Mahony stated there has never been an independent voice to speak on behalf of the volunteers as a collective, to ensure that the well-being of volunteers from their perspective is at the heart of best practice policies within units and in units and volunteers’ interaction with IRCG Management.
“We need to be here to offer support and help to all IRCG members both past and present, to assist in resolving any issues that they may have struggled with, and to work with IRCG Management to ensure best practice prevails so that issues do not arise, if possible, in the first place.”
ICGVRA is now seeking an urgent meeting with Transport Minister, Eamon Ryan, and has already, through Deputy Darren O Rourke raised their concerns with the minister.
Deputy Carey and Senator Craughwell have also confirmed they will be raising the new body’s concerns at the next Transport and Communications Committee meeting.

by Dan Danaher

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