WHILE there was widespread shock following the standing down of the Doolin Coastguard Unit on Tuesday, there have been issues around its operation for a number of years, writes Owen Ryan.
After six people resigned, the Irish Coastguard moved to shut down the unit this week, even though there were still 12 volunteers remaining, and it had been one of the busiest units in the country.
One source that is close to the Doolin Coastguard said that claims of “bullying and harassment” that led to the departure of six volunteers from the unit was not caused by the 12 remaining members.
A person close to the Unit said that problems have been festering since well before the death of Caitriona Lucas in 2016. He said that after a falling out between members who had once been quite friendly, other people involved took sides, which he said “shouldn’t have happened”.
He also said that some of those who have just resigned also had problems with how the Coastguard is being run. Despite Doolin being one of the busiest Coastguard units in Ireland, he said the attempts to resolve the situation were less thorough than they should have been.
“It wasn’t handled at the top. They tried, they’d go a certain distance but not following it through. It was a box ticking exercise really, they could say well we had meetings with them, but they didn’t follow it through.”
He said that some of those who have left also had issues with management around things like the equipment available, and that other units around the country also have issues with its overall management.
Standing orders were suspended at Tuesday’s meeting of Ennistymon and Kilrush Municipal Districts and the County Councillors unanimously passed a motion calling on Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan to intervene to make sure the Doolin Coastguard Station is reopened immediately. (See story by Dan Danaher here)
Councillor Shane Talty said he had been “astonished” by the news, and said that new facilities had only been developed for the unit in 2015, at a cost of nearly €2 million.
He said that the standing down of the unit, “can’t be accepted and won’t be accepted”.
Independent Ian Lynch said he was “taken aback by the way it was dealt with”, and that the volunteers had not been communicated with in an appropriate way.
“Once it is sorted out there is a need to look at senior management’s people management,” he said.
Councillor Lynch also said that the unit still has the capacity to deliver a number of services. He added that the idea the Kilkee Unit could cover the whole coast of Clare is “risible”.
The Green Party’s Liam Grant said that he wasn’t surprised that the situation had developed, as it had been coming for some time. He said there is a disconnect between Government and volunteers delivering the service.
“The Government are not working enough with people on the frontline in terms of rules that are coming in.”
On Tuesday Clare TD Joe Carey said he had written to Minister Eamon Ryan urging him to intervene, while he said there is the capacity for the unit to continue, even after the six resignations.
“I understand that the unit continues to have the necessary resources and capabilities to launch a boat having five fully trained experienced volunteers still active.
“While I accept that there is a requirement for four appropriately trained personnel to launch a boat and the existing numbers of volunteers pose a challenge, this service can still be delivered.
“The current unit is more than capable of performing cliff rescue, search and ambulance assistance duties,” the Clare TD wrote in his letter to Minister Ryan.
“It’s vital that there are no knee jerk reactions and that the hard working, experienced volunteers of Doolin Coast Guard are engaged with in a constructive way by Coast Guard management.
“Coast Guard volunteers shoulder much responsibility and the services they provide are crucial for coastal communities.
“I am requesting that you would intervene immediately in this matter with a view to bringing about a resolution that secures the future of this vital Coast Guard service in Doolin,” Deputy Carey concluded.