TEN FORMER Doolin Coast Guard volunteers, with at least 155 years of experience between them, still haven’t received a meaningful response almost six weeks after offering to return as a group to facilitate a proper working of the unit.
On May 3, the ten members sent an expression of interest to return to the unit as a group in response to correspondence issued by the national Coast Guard on April 14 last.
“As a collective group with many years of experience and relevant IRCG qualifications we feel that this interview process is unnecessary.
“Since the “standing down” of the unit, we are and have been available to return to active duties of Doolin Coast Guard as a group.
“With immediate effect we can facilitate the return of the Doolin Coast Guard Unit to full operational capacity in all competencies,” they stated.
Apart from an email requesting clarification whether the members wanted to participate in the recruitment process on an individual basis, the ten members are still being left in the dark about whether their group offer is being accepted or rejected.
The volunteers were informed on May 5 their application was forwarded to Coast Guard Volunteer Training, who are “managing the process in Doolin”.
Former volunteer, Bernard Lucas confirmed five weeks from last Friday this group “who have done nothing wrong” still hasn’t received any meaningful response to their offer.
While an interim Doolin Coast Guard is in place on paper with seven members, Mr Lucas pointed out it is extremely limited as they can’t climb, can’t go out on a call out with the boat and can only search.
Despite pledges that members from other unit would be drafted in to help the depleted Doolin Unit, he said there was no outside help when there were two people missing near the Cliffs of Moher a few weeks ago.
“There was only three people out searching from Doolin Coast Guard. There was no one from Kilkee or any other station. Myself and Tom Doherty found one of these people when we went out searching.”
It is understood that some of the seven remaining Doolin Coast Guard members have 12-hour shifts and others are often outside the county on work commitments, leaving about two or three people who are available for call outs on some occasions.
He said there should have been a meeting held in Doolin after the unit was stood down last year between all volunteers to allow “the team to fix the team” instead of trying to bring in outside mediators.
Commenting on the “inter personal differences” referred to in the Mulvey Report, he said while there were some differences, they could have been resolved.
He claimed the initial break up of the unit when six members resigned was over numerous issues with National Coast Guard rules and regulations such as searches near the Cliffs of Moher and the requirement to have a C1 licence to drive coastguard vans without providing a training course to acquire the licence.
“If you have a group of 25 or 26 people, everyone will not always be a happy camper. But were people turning up and doing their work in a professional manner? Absolutely. You turned up, did your work and went home. You don’t have to be best friends will all these people all of the time.”
Mr Lucas confirmed Minister Hildegarde Naughton still hasn’t honoured a public commitment made last year to meet Doolin volunteers, despite several contacts being made. He expressed concern Minister Naughton has only got one side of the story.
Michael Murray, from the organisation’s official members representative body the Coastal Unit Advisory Group (CUAG), told a recent Transport and Communications committee meeting fresh terms had been agreed with Coast Guard management, which aim to address many concerns.
He said the terms of reference for volunteers have been reviewed as part of recommendations made in a report conducted by Kieran Mulvey following the collapse of the Doolin Coast Guard last year, which advised that CUAG should have its role extended and enhanced.
Commenting on the recent Mulvey Report, Mr Lucas claimed this was effectively “null and void” because it was based on the false premises that CUAG was the representative body for volunteers, which wasn’t the case.
In fact, two days before a recent Oireachtas Committee meeting, Mr Lucas recalled the chairman of CUAG admitted he previously had no powers to represent volunteers until they were allocated to him before this meeting.
Responding to representations from Deputy Joe Carey, Minister Naughton said she is very committed to ongoing consultation and communication with all Coast Guard volunteers, having already met CUAG.
A spokesman for the Department of Transport stated, “IRCG is currently conducting a recruitment process to appoint volunteers to the Doolin Unit, which is open to all volunteers who are interested in joining the Irish Coast Guard.
“This is with a view to building the Unit up to full strength as recommended in the Mulvey Report. The recruitment process is underway and is expected to conclude in the coming weeks.”