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Editorial: Playing politics could cost lives 11.02.08

SOMEONE is playing politics with the fate of Malin Head Coast Guard station.
On the one hand, we have a 140,000 report in 2003 recommending that the best option for the future of the Irish Coast Guard Service would be to upgrade and expand the existing marine rescue centres in Malin Head and Valentia.
Five years on however, and it appears that the Government has done a complete about-turn and has decided that it is best to scrap Malin Head and Valentia and build two brand new centres - one on the east coast at Drogheda and one at a location on the west coast.
It doesn't seem to matter that Malin Head and Valentia are currently Ireland's nerve centres of marine rescue operations- and are doing a very fine job thank you very much.
Malin Head Coast Guard station. It doesn't seem to matter that Malin Head and Valentia are already kitted out with state-of-the-art equipment that can pin-point the co-ordinates of a drowning fisherman, despite strong winds and high seas, so that the lifeboat and helicopter crews can reach him as soon as possible.
No... best to scrap it all...throw
away more than 100 years of hard-earned expertise and reputation for a brand new centre in that renowned maritime heartland - Drogheda! And with that comment, absolutely no disrespect is intended to the decent people of Co Louth.
Any sensible-thinking person who sees first-hand what Malin Head Coast Guard has to offer would agree it's a crazy idea to throw it all away.
You only have to look at the map to see that the busy Irish sea is not only a relatively narrow channel but also well covered in terms of marine communications from Malin Head, Valentia and Dublin and telecommunications operators in Britain. Alternatively, look at the west along the vast stretch of Atlantic, and you easily see the need to keep Valentia and Malin Head as centres of excellence.
In the interests of balance let's see look at what the alternative report says. It criticises Malin Head's communication and electricity problems.
It says Ireland's Search and Rescue process relies on clear, effective and reliable communications and is therefore ultimately dependent on the performance of Coast Guard radio and telecommunications equipment.
It says true resilient broadband is not available in these locations.
These arguments simply do not stand up and Minister Noel Dempsey could be assured of that with just one visit to Malin Head. If telecommunications are so vulnerable in Malin Head, why did the Irish Aviation Authority only last year establish a state-of-the-art monitoring centre that relays aircraft positions on a 24/7 basis to air traffic controllers throughout Ireland and Europe. And hasn't Malin Head Coast Guard coped professionally and expertly with the thousands of rescues they have co-ordinated in the past ten decades - long before the sound of the broadband buzzword? Similarly, axing Malin Head Coast Guard as a marine rescue centre with the loss of 18 jobs, is totally contrary to the Government's decentralisation mantra. Isn't decentralisation, from a regional development perspective, meant to lift all boats?!
Finally, let us ask Minister Dempsey and the people behind the plans to axe Malin Head and Valentia: If you were on a sailing boat in Ireland's high seas that started to take on water, who would you prefer to hear your May Day - a brand new centre in Drogheda with the smell of fresh paint...or Malin Head Coast Guard Centre buffeted by salt sea air for more than 100 years?
If you would like to register your support for Malin Head Coast Guard Station simply email your name and address to wesupportu@inishowennews.com

Read tomorrow: What do the business people of Malin Head think about the proposed closure of Malin Head Coast Guard station and the stopping of a public bus service to the area last year?
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