Search and rescue services will remain in place in the southeast following a confirmation from the Department of Transport that a minimum of four helicopter bases will be retained for future Coast Guard services.
Initial copies of tendering documentation published by the Government in late 2021 detailed how a minimum of three helicopters were to be provided by the next contractor.
This led to concerns expressed by politicians in the region that a base would be cut from the future plans, potentially in Waterford.
In a statement on Tuesday, the Department of Transport said it would notify the market of an amendment to the documentation published last December.
The documentation, called a pre-qualification questionnaire, relates to the procurement process for a new Coast Guard aviation service, which commenced last year following a Government decision published in the summer of 2021.
“The PQQ will be amended to specify the number and location of Search and Rescue (SAR) bases to reflect the existing configuration, namely four bases at Dublin, Shannon, Sligo and Waterford,” the department said.
“The amendment will ensure the delivery of wider Government policies concerning balanced and even distribution of State services and investment, particularly the needs of island and rural communities. It will also support and protect other public policy priorities, such as the State’s response to emerging trade patterns post-Brexit, and priorities under the Climate Action Plan.”
Fine Gael TD in Wexford Paul Kehoe welcomed the clarification.
“I am delighted that the Minister confirmed this to me this morning, that the Government has seen fit to, and sees the importance of, retaining the South East as a strategic area. It is a huge fishing industry from the Cork and Kerry coast all the way Wicklow and it covers a huge area. The population in the South East has also grown over the last number of years as well. This has been a fantastic service and I am delighted it will be retained.”
Fine Gael senator John Cummins said he had engaged with Government colleagues and the Tánaiste on the issue and sought assurances that four bases would be specified in the ultimate tender that is issue.
“Geographically, the four bases of Waterford, Sligo, Shannon and Dublin have served the State well”.