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A number of Doolin Coast Guard Unit members are still in the dark over their future in the service. Photograph by John Kelly.

Doolin coast guard members in the dark over future

A LARGE number of Doolin Coast Guard members remain uncertain of their future involvement in the service due to a lack of direct contact from the national Coast Guard, writes Dan Danaher.

While a number of local Coast Guard volunteers were involved in the search for a body on Sunday and Monday, one well placed source claimed the unit only had eight members earlier this week – four fewer than when it was stood down from operations last November.

Minister of State in the Department of Transport, Hildegarde Naughton TD, has asked the Irish Coast Guard (IRCG) to begin the process of reconstituting the Doolin Coast Guard unit, which was stood down from operations and training activities on November 2 last after the resignation of six volunteers.

The decision was made following receipt of a report and recommendation from independent mediator, Kieran Mulvey who had been called in to speak with all protagonists.

The report advised that certain relationships within the Doolin Coast Guard Unit have irretrievably broken down and that the mutual trust, respect and confidence required to effectively operate a Coast Guard Unit does not exist within the unit.

However, local volunteers are still waiting to be contacted by the national Coast Guard concerning their future four weeks after the Mulvey report was published on December 16 without any advance notice for the affected participants.

Former officer-in-charge Mattie Shannon confirmed to The Clare Champion he has returned for an interim three-month period to help with recruiting members and rebuilding the team over the coming months.

Mr Shannon was sanctioned by the national Coast Guard to get involved, having built up 30 years experience on rescues before he retired three and a half years ago. He has opted not to comment on the current recruitment process.

It has been claimed that four out of the six volunteers who resigned have returned.

According to one source, one former member with 30 years’ experience and another member with 40 years’ experience have decided not to return because of issues with the national Coast Guard.

The source claimed it is wrong the way some volunteers are being treated “as if they don’t exist” due to the lack of direct contact from the national Coast Guard about their future.

The source wondered if some volunteers would even consider returning at this stage in view of the delay in contacting them.

He pointed out it will take a long time before the unit will have members with enough training and experience to complete all of the search activities they previously carried out before the unit was stood down.

At this stage, volunteers are only permitted to carry out limited search operations and are not allowed by the national Coast Guard to conduct a call-out on certain designated risk zones about a kilometre north and two kilometres south of the Cliffs of Moher.

Volunteers are not allowed to go on a rescue mission in a boat or get involved in a climbing operation, which were previously two of their core specialised skills.

Another source claimed there are 12 members with about 200 years’ experience in total.

From this cohort, the source alleged ten were not asked to return and two were not going back when asked for an assessment on Tuesday.

It has been emphasised that any new unit will have to include a good number of experienced members in view of the difficult cliff and sea rescues undertaken by the unit, when it was operational.

Meanwhile, emergency services are waiting for the sea off the Cliffs of Moher to get calmer before carrying out a recovery operation of a male who is believed to be in his forties.
Garda divers from Dublin arrived on Sunday but declined to enter the water as it was deemed to be too rough and unsafe to carry out a rescue.

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