Cork based Fine Gael Senator, Tim Lombard, raised the issue in the Seanad today of the lack of legislation regarding Coast Guard Services in Ireland.
“The Irish Coast Guard Service is an invaluable and essential emergency service for our island nation. Each year its 950 volunteers manage roughly 2,500 marine emergencies and assist other primary response agencies with nearly 4,500 treacherous situations. The highly trained Coast Guards volunteer an average of 10,000 combined man hours every year and the work they do is critical for the livelihoods of all Irish people as well as the visitors to our shores.
“There is a growing concern that this primary response agency is not legislated for in an effective and meaningful way. Along with the fire service, ambulance service and the Garda the Coast Guard Service is one of our four emergency services assisting in precarious situations, however the Coast Guard Service is the only primary response agency not legislated for in this State.
“I have recently spoken to Coast Guard volunteers throughout Cork who are concerned that decisions about their operations are currently being made by a Department that has no direct involvement with their service. This means that the Coast Guard Service do not receive suitable or substantial support from the Government consequently leaving this organisation of highly trained volunteers unable to reach its full potential.
“Concerns pertaining to the lack of management officials have also been raised. Currently there are only three sector managers for the entire country. Three people responsible for overseeing operations of all coastal units is totally insufficient to maintain consistent and effective services. Legislation needs to be introduced and funding provided to enable a command structure from experienced and qualified Coast Guard personnel that will provide practical support for this service.
“The implications of legislating a volunteer service need to be thoroughly deliberated and I have called on the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross TD, to come into the Seanad and debate this issue. We need to establish a legislative framework and funding model that will safeguard our vital Coast Guard Service.
“Due to the critical nature of the service provided we need to see immediate action on this issue. Going forward, in order for the Coast Guard Services to function efficiently they need to be afforded the same legal footing as other emergency services.”
09 November 2016