One of the West of Ireland’s busiest seaside resorts and diving locations looks set to have reduced search and rescue cover for a second summer season.
The Kilkee unit of the Irish Coast Guard has not been fully operational since the tragic and untimely death of volunteer Caitríona Lucas in a tragedy in Kilkee in September 2016.
The unit’s original Delta rigid inflatable boat (RIB) was destroyed in the same incident and was replaced just a fortnight later. However, the new boat hasn’t been available to respond to emergencies because of lack of trained operators. The unit’s second smaller D-class boat is operational and available to attend some incidents but can only operate within the bay area.
Locals in Kilkee have been calling for full search and rescue resources to be reinstated in the popular resort. It now appears however that the Kilkee unit’s main rescue boat will not return to service in time for the coming summer season.
A Department of Transport spokesman said: “The Kilkee CGU are currently undergoing a training programme with the intention of conducting an Operational Readiness Audit at the earliest opportunity. An Operational Readiness Audit will first be conducted on the D-Class to allow the unit utilise the craft within their full area of responsibility with the Audit on the Rib to follow at a later time. Training is therefore concentrating at present on the D-Class.”
The Department is unable to say however when the main boat will return to full service.
“The prime objective at this point is to bring the D-Class to full operability. The timeline for this is dependent on the outcome of this training. The Coast Guard is working with the current unit members during this period of extensive training.
Kilkee based businessman Cillian Murphy said: “It seems that Kilkee will have to do without a water based rescue service for the summer of 2018. As a coastal community, we are defined by the sea and part of that definition is our readiness and willingness to assist anyone else who is in trouble at sea. It is really important for us as a community to make sure there is a high degree of confidence that help will be at hand for anyone who gets into trouble at sea off Kilkee this year.”
Meanwhile, a public meeting was held in Kilkee recently to discuss the future of search and rescue services in the area.
Mr Murphy added: “It was agreed on the night that our goal would be to ensure there would be a system in place to assist any person or persons who get into trouble at sea off Kilkee, if they require it. Discussions are ongoing as to what that system will look like and how it will be implemented.”
“Our job on the night was to look at what assets we have at our disposal within the community and how we can utilize them to ensure this goal is achieved,” Mr Murphy said.