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Doolin Coast Guard Station, which will accommodate members of a newly-formed unit following a report by independent mediator, Kieran Mulvey. Photograph by John Kelly.

 Doolin Coast Guard Unit On Stream For Return Through Choppy Waters


 

THE Doolin Coast Guard Unit will be reconstituted on an interim basis to ensure rescue services return to the local community and visitors, according to Minister of State in the Department of Transport, Hildegarde Naughton .

On November 2, Doolin Coast Guard Unit was controversially stood down from operations and training activities after six volunteers resigned including the officer in charge amid claims of “severe bullying and harassment” in the service.

Marine cover and medical assistance to casualties that get into difficulty in inaccessible locations from South Galway to Doonbeg couldn’t be provided by very experienced highly trained members over the last six weeks.

Transport Minister Eamon Ryan was warned by Senator Martin Conway that “lives were being put at risk” over the “unacceptable decision” to stand down the unit, despite the expertise and experience of 12 remaining members.

The outcry over the coast guard unit’s suspension resulted in the recent appointment of independent mediator, Kieran Mulvey, who concluded in a new report that “interpersonal difficulties” are not capable of being resolved through the normal mediation process.

 

Minister of State in the Department of Transport, Hildegarde Naughton, has asked the Irish Coast Guard (IRCG) to begin the process of reconstituting the Doolin Coast Guard unit.

 

The decision was made following receipt of a report and recommendation from Mr Mulvey, which has 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.

 

 

In accordance with the recommendations of Mr Mulvey’s Report, members of the Doolin Unit will be permanently stood down. The unit will be re-constituted in the short term by temporarily appointing volunteers who Coast Guard believe can work and operate together.

This will address the situation presented by the absence of a functioning Doolin Coast Guard Unit.

 

A broader appointment process will commence in due course with the view to permanently restoring the Coast Guard Unit in the Doolin area.

 

Minister Naughton understands that this is a difficult decision and outcome for all concerned.

In a statement issued to the Clare Champion, Minister Naughton stressed inaction on the matter is not an option where there is a situation that a person may find themselves in trouble on or near the water into the future and require the assistance of a locally-based Coast Guard Unit. The provision of a robust and fully operational Coast Guard Unit to the Doolin area is the priority.

 

A number of further recommendations in the report will also be implemented including further engagement with volunteers and a review of procedures affecting the unit around training, operations, equipment and activities.

 

Minister Naughton also supported the work of the Coast Guard Representative Group, the Coastal Unit Advisory Group (CUAG), which represents volunteers interests within the Coast Guard. To enhance CUAGs role as a representative body for volunteers a review of CUAGs existing Terms of Reference and grievance procedures within the Irish Coast Guard will be carried out.

The report concludes that the interpersonal difficulties are not capable of being resolved through the normal mediation process.

 

 

Commenting on the recommendations of the report, Deputy Cathal Crowe said he understands that this is a difficult decision and outcome for all concerned. However, Deputy Crowe stressed all parties must accept Kieran Mulvey’s bona fides and realise that all other avenues to reconcile the deep-rooted issues at the base have been exhausted.

 

“I take some solace from the fact that Kieran Mulvey and Minister Hildegarde Naughton are recommending an immediate reconstitution of the 18-crew station at Doolin. I understand that they aim to begin this process before Christmas, which is ambitious but reflects the essential and emergency nature of the service they provide.

“I also understand that the option to reapply for positions with the reconstituted station will be open to many of the crew who have worked there heretofore.

 

“While I believe the closure and reconstitution of the base will help to resolve the local issue, I do feel a huge body of work now needs to get underway nationwide as the problems in Doolin are replicated in many other stations also.

 

“I believe that the Oireachtas Transport Committee on which I sit have a considerable amount of work to do and Minister Naughton needs to have direct oversight of a process to redefine the management of the Irish Coast Guard and how the higher echelons engage with volunteers.

 

“The Irish Coast Guard offer an incredible service and risk life and limb to keep those who go to sea safe. It is imperative that the Doolin Coast Guard is reopened as a matter of urgency as lives depend on it.”

Dan Danaher

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