PRESSURE is mounting on Transport Minister Eamon Ryan to conduct an independent investigation into the suspension of the Doolin Coast Guard.
The Doolin Coast Guard can no longer provide maritime coverage and medical assistance to victims who find themselves in difficulty in inaccessible places from south Galway to Doonbeg in County Clare after its controversial removal.
The stretch of coastline includes much of the Burren and popular vacation destinations including Lahinch and Liscannor.
Mr. Ryan was warned by Senator Martin Conway that “lives are at risk” because of the “unacceptable decision” to withdraw the unit, despite the expertise and experience of 12 remaining members.
Six Doolin volunteers resigned, including the officer in charge of the unit.
One wonders why the unit, which has a rock climbing, boat and land search team, was unable to continue to some extent with the remaining members.
The Irish Coast Guard said the Inis Oírr team in the Aran Islands, which is managed by the Doolin Coast Guard, will remain operational.
During a debate on Seanad, Senator Regina Doherty expressed concern over allegations of intimidation raised by Senator Martin Conway and Senator Gerard Craughwell.
Having attended the inaugural meeting of the Irish Coast Guard Volunteers Representative Association in Kilkee in 2016, Mr Craughwell warned that “things have deteriorated to such an extent that we may not have any more volunteers in Doolin” .
He also spoke about the circumstances that led to the death of Caitríona Lucas, 41, who was the first Coast Guard member to die while on duty on September 12, 2016.
“Something that came to light when we attended this meeting was that a few weeks before Caitríona Lucas lost her life in West Clare, the Coast Guard was warned that the way things were going was the next time they went there would be for a funeral, indeed, a few weeks later, it was a funeral.
“It looks like we won’t have Coast Guard volunteers along the west coast from Clare to Kerry at the rate things are going.
Mr Craughwell urged Mr Ryan to act immediately to save the service.
A Coast Guard spokesperson said coverage provided by other units was “normal practice when a base may temporarily close due to an inspection.”
All other Coast Guard units, shoreline and cliff rescue services remain in place, along with the four Coast Guard search and rescue helicopters.
In a statement, the Transport Department said: “The Irish Coast Guard recognizes the problems which unfortunately existed within the unit and which led to the shutdown of the operations of the Doolin Coast Guard unit. The department recognizes the hard work and leadership of many members of the unit, its management team in particular, and other stakeholders in addressing these challenges. “
The ministry is committed to providing “relevant training and mediation services as needed”.