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Seanad SOS for Coast Guard 27.02.08

by Damian Dowds, Inishowen Independent

SEANAD Éireann will today spend two hours debating the proposed closure of Malin Head and Valentia Coast Guard radio rescue co-ordination centres and representatives of the local organisations opposed to the closure will be in attendance.
Groups opposed to the closure met on Monday night in Buncrana to discuss their approach to the debate. Lobbying will step up the gears with Letterkenny Institute of Technology due to present a report on communications technology in Inishowen that will refute claims that the electricity and telephone system at Malin Head aren’t up to standard.
“It’s a real bone of contention,” said Donegal North East TD Niall Blaney. “The big question bearing on everyone here is whether there will be a downgrading of services that results in loss of life. I don’t think the Minister would make such a decision.”
“There is a lot of uncertainty, but the book isn’t closed yet,” he said. “I’m working hard with Senator Cecilia Keaveney behind to the scenes on retaining the Malin Head station.”
Senator Keaveney helped organise a meeting between the Inishowen Development Partnership and Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey recently where the group rebutted the findings of a civil service report that recommended the effective closure of the Malin Head and Valentia rescue co-ordination centres.
“It claimed that there was lack of applicants for positions at Malin Head,” Senator Keaveney said. “That was refuted, and with the decommissioning scheme for whitefish trawlers there will be a large number of experienced fishermen who would have relevant skills for future vacancies that arise at Malin Head.”
“I am delighted that Malin Head and Valentia are working together and I will be asking the Minister on Wednesday why he’s trying to fix something that isn’t broken,” Senator Keaveney continued. “It doesn’t make sense to create an argument in Donegal and Kerry. Mend what’s there and decentralise other parts of the Department of the Marine to Drogheda.”
Seamus Bovaird, a board member of the Inishowen Development Partnership who has been heavily involved in the campaign to retain the station at Malin, has questioned the siting of proposed Drogheda headquarters.
“That location is less than 80 miles from the existing Northern Ireland coastguard at Orlock Head in the Ards Peninsula,” he said, pointing out that the British coastguard has responsibility for more than 80% of the Irish Sea, rendering the Drogheda location obsolete. “And with the Irish area of responsibility for search and rescue being extended by more than 200 miles north and west of Malin Head, closure of the station would be a retrograde step.”

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