Doolin Coast Guard unit to be reconstituted after Mulvey report

No form of mediation would resolve matters of dispute at facility, report finds

Members of the Doolin Coast Guard unit. The Co Clare unit was stood down from search and rescue services last month after six volunteers resigned from their roles over interpersonal issues.  Photograph: Pat Flynn

Members of the Doolin Coast Guard unit. The Co Clare unit was stood down from search and rescue services last month after six volunteers resigned from their roles over interpersonal issues. Photograph: Pat Flynn

 

The Government has asked the Irish Coast Guard to begin the process of reconstituting the Doolin Coast Guard unit after a report by Kieran Mulvey concluded no form of mediation would resolve matters of dispute at the facility.

The Co Clare unit was stood down from search and rescue services last month after six volunteers resigned from their roles over interpersonal issues.

Tensions within the Coast Guard between management and grassroots volunteers and officers have become an increasing problem for the organisation in recent years. Mr Mulvey, the former director general of the Workplace Relations Commission, was asked to mediate.

Following meetings with volunteers in Doolin, Mr Mulvey said in his report: “Regretfully I have formed the conclusion that no form of mediation will lead to a resolution of the matters of disputation in the unit.

“All the volunteers attended and engaged in the discussions. The meetings covered many aspects of the operation of the unit, both currently and historically.”

He said the volunteers were of the “strong opinion” that bureaucracy around procedures, form-filling and increasing health and safety regulation was leading to an “adverse to risk culture” in the service rather than engaging with volunteers on practical realities.

“Despite several efforts by me, the volunteers did not respond to my attempts to get an engagement on the identification of the interpersonal difficulties between them,” said Mr Mulvey.

He said members of the unit “must now make some sensitive and personally challenging decisions in the interest of the restoration of the Doolin Coast Guard unit to operational effectiveness”.

“There is no capacity currently to resolve the interpersonal relationships/non-relationships in the unit,” he said.

“Therefore, having regard to the history within the unit and the prolonged and exceptional circumstances in the Doolin unit, the Minister and the Coast Guard service should move with immediate effect to reconstitute the Doolin volunteer team.

“The Coast Guard service should reinstate immediately those members of the unit who management believe can work and operate together in a collegiate and co-operative manner.

“The reconstituted unit should be given sufficient time to develop a culture between them of mutual respect and trust.

“Within a further period and when deemed appropriate, a further expansion of the unit should be considered to build the unit back up to full strength from local volunteers and preferably before next summer.”

Minister of State for Transport Hildegarde Naughton has asked the Irish Coast Guard to begin the process of reconstituting the unit following publication of the Mulvey report.

She said members of the unit will be permanently stood down, and it will be reconstituted in the short term by temporarily appointing volunteers whom the Coast Guard believe can work and operate together.

“This will address the situation presented by the absence of a functioning Doolin Coast Guard unit,” she added.