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Bernard Lucas said the sacked ten responded as a group to an expression of interest to return to the Doolin Unit because they knew the Coast Guard only wanted to pick and choose some people and leave out others.

Coast Guard pressed to explain rationale of Doolin sackings

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THE national Coast Guard has been called upon by an independent senator to explain why it sacked ten people who remained in the Doolin Coast Guard Unit.

Speaking at a meeting organised by the Irish Coast Guard Volunteer Representative Association (ICGVRA) in the Bellbridge Hotel on Saturday, Senator Gerard Craughwell said the rationale will either stand or fall based on the Coast Guard’s explanation.

He said the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport could investigate why private and confidential information provided by Doolin members during previous meetings with outside consultants was given to independent mediator, Kieran Mulvey.

The senator advised members to apply on an individual basis to the Information Commissioner asking how this information was passed on and if there was a breach of GDPR.

“If there has been a breach of GDPR, then everything that stems from this breach is no longer valid. The GDPR issue is one that only the Information Commissioner can answer. There are questions that GUIG have to answer, there are questions around the life jackets.

“Going back to 2015, we have documentary evidence they failed. They told us in the Joint Oireachtas Committee they realised they failed in 2018.

“In that three years, Caitríona Lucas lost her life. I am not saying the life jackets had anything to do with this, but we need to know. We will ask questions without fear or favour.

“We also need the inquest into the death of Caitríona Lucas to be held straight away. We need an investigation into the life jackets carried out straight away.

“We need to look at the national justice that should apply in any organisation. I can’t fire you because you are a volunteer. I can terminate your voluntary service but I have to have something that makes that stand up.

“When I go to do it, I have to be subject to scrutiny by an outside agency such as the Workplace Relations Commission. As a volunteer, if I feel aggrieved, I have to have somewhere to go.

“I am an advocate for the safety of people on land at sea,” he said.

Former Doolin Coast Guard member, Bernard Lucas recalled two members resigned over numerous unresolved issues with management at national level, before four members handed in resignations shortly afterwards.

“Instead of leaving the remaining ten as the interim level, the Coast Guard sacked these ten people who should have been left because they could have done all the disciplines and were fully certified to do all tasks.

“Instead, the Coast Guard took back four who had resigned and took on two members who had retired a few years ago.”

Asked by Senator Timmy Dooley if the Coast Guard had reached out to the so-called “Doolin Ten”, Mr Lucas acknowledged the CG did write to members last spring asking them for an expression of interest if they wished to return.

The former member recalled they did express an interest as a group of ten people “who had done nothing wrong”.

He said they responded again as a group because they knew the Coast Guard only wanted to pick and choose some people and leave out others. He told the meeting the same thing happened for the interview process when they again applied to be interviewed as a group of ten.

Senator Craughwell said he personally would have advised them to apply individually to be interviewed.

Mr Lucas acknowledged the group adopted a certain strategy as they didn’t want to be divided.

In a statement issued to the Clare Champion, Irish Coast Guard Volunteers’ Representative Association (ICGVRA) chairman, John O’Mahony warned that until volunteers have an independent representative association there will be unjust outcomes to all disputes.

“It’s over a year since Doolin CGU was taken out of service. One of the best and busiest CGUs was taken out of service and very much as a result of the failure to resolve internal disputes.

“There was no way for the Doolin volunteers to get any independent help to help with some problems that could be fixed with a genuine effort.

“It is more than six years since Caitriona Lucas lost her life at Kilkee. Many unresolved matters remain as a result of the accident at Kilkee, in particular the failure to have an inquest into Caitríona’s death,” he said.

Mr O’Mahony expressed concern about the increase in the number of “Private and Confidential” letters issued to volunteers over the years when they were being isolated and dismissed because they were perceived to be troublesome or unnecessary to the unit.

“It works by isolating the volunteer from their team as the OIC in the unit may be involved mostly at the insistence of the sector manager.

“Volunteers do not have a union, or other representative association. CG headquarters had no feedback source apart from its own sector managers and the unit officers and in some cases they were ‘part of the problem’ whether willingly or otherwise.”

He claimed the Coast Guard Code has been used for years to dismiss volunteers who “failed to comply” with some part of the code. He said if volunteers had any independent voice or defence council, it could be a useful code, but they don’t.

The Department of Transport stated as per previous responses, these matters have been addressed.

“Coast Guard management remain committed to ongoing consultation and communication with all Coast Guard volunteers and their Volunteer Coastal Unit Advisory Group (CUAG) which provides a representative role for all volunteers.”

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