Fears for future of busiest marine rescue station
THE GROUP campaigning to retain the country’s busiest marine rescue station, Valentia Coast Guard radio station, say they are increasingly despondent about the future of the Kerry facility.
A decision on cost-cutting at the Coast Guard service, which currently operates out of three centres, is due to be taken by Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar in October.
Kerry, along with Malin in Co Donegal, is likely to be closed in favour of one major station based in Dublin as part of a cost-saving effort.
However, those opposed to the closures of the two rural coastal stations question the findings of the recent Fisher report, which recommends reducing the number of stations, and of the attitude of senior Coast Guard personnel who appear to favour a more centralised service.
Fine Gael TDs and Senators in Kerry and Donegal have not signed a petition to have the authors of the Fisher report, along with senior Coast Guard personnel, questioned before an Oireachtas committee. Their Labour colleagues have signed the petition, which was circulated in recent weeks by the Kerry Fianna Fáil senator Mark Daly.
Representatives of the Save Our Station (SOS) group on Valentia Island met Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan over the weekend.
Mr Deenihan could give no assurances on the retention of the station, SOS spokesman Anthony O’Connell said.
“We are not very confident, but we will pursue every avenue,” he said.
Valentia is by far the busiest of the three stations, responding to two-thirds of the mayday calls around the coast and co-ordinating inland searches. It oversees an area which “covers some of the most treacherous seas in the world and the roughest terrain in the country”, Mr O’Connell said.
Sixteen people are employed on the island. The engine room has been upgraded recently, and new computerised equipment is currently in storage awaiting installation.
The road to the station was upgraded by Kerry County Council earlier this year, and a helicopter pad has been provided.
“Is all this investment now to go to waste?” Mr O’Connell asked.
In existence for more than 100 years, the station has been threatened with closure since the turn of this century. Earlier this summer, Mr Varadkar confirmed an action plan was being prepared and tough decisions would have to be made in October.