Doolin Coast Guard unit stood down after six resignations

Member says organisation failed to address issues but Coast Guard says it continues to provide support

One of the country’s most experienced Irish Coast Guard units has been stood down. The move was precipitated by news early on Tuesday that six volunteers at Doolin, including the unit’s Officer in Charge, had resigned.

The Irish Coast Guard subsequently confirmed that the unit has been stood down but said that the team on Inis Oírr in the Aran Islands, which is managed by Doolin Coast Guard, will remain operational.

The six resignations on Monday left the unit with just 11 members and the decision by the Irish Coast Guard to stand the service down means that those remaining members are not allowed to respond to any land or water-based incident.

One member said: “The unit has been taken off the board. Simply, it means the we’re stood down and the coordination centre at Valentia has been told by Dublin that the Doolin unit is not to be tasked to any call.”

The Doolin unit was hit in 2016 by the loss of their colleague Caitríona Lucas who died tragically while involved in a search for a missing man in Kilkee.

That incident, a subsequent Marine Casualty Investigation Board report into her death that was critical of safety management systems and the subsequent reaction of the Irish Coast Guard is said to have contributed to growing tensions within the organisation in recent years.

There have been various allegations to the effect that volunteers have been treated poorly, that management became overly cautious in its approach to the organisation’s work and that disciplinary investigations into alleged breaches of safety protocols led to disproportionate action against some senior officers.

“Management and the Department had years to resolve issues in Doolin,” said a member of the Doolin unit. “Their HR people did engage but they’ve done nothing so they can’t say they didn’t see this coming. There are HR issues in stations all over the country but this has been simmering in Doolin for years.”

A spokesperson for the Irish Coast Guard said it “acknowledges the divisions that have unfortunately existed within the unit for a number of years, and recognises the strenuous efforts and leadership displayed by many members of the unit, its management team in particular, and other stakeholders to address these difficulties.

“The Irish Coast Guard will continue to offer support to all those affected by this event, and with the aim to strengthen the unit’s management structure, provide relevant training and mediation services as may be required, and return the unit to operational readiness as quickly as practicable.”

In the meantime, the spokesperson added: “Inis Oírr Coast Guard Unit, which falls under the direct management of the Doolin Unit, shall continue to remain fully operational,” and the “Coast Guard is liaising with other SAR stakeholders in the area in order to provide cover for services that otherwise would be provided by the Doolin unit”.