The Junior Minister at the Department of Transport has committed to appointing an independent mediator to try and resolve serious issues that the closed an Irish Coast Guard station in Clare.
Minister Hildegarde Naughton has said she will meet with officials in her department to discuss the next step in appointing such and individual.
Clare Fianna Fáil Senator Timmy Dooley has already suggested Mr Kieran Mulvey who was Chief Executive of the Labour Relations Commission since its inception in 1991 and subsequently took on the role of Director General of the Workplace Relations Commission in 2015, retiring in June 2016.
The call for an urgent intervention comes over a week after a total of six long-serving volunteers at Doolin, including the unit’s officer in charge (OIC) confirmed on November 1st they were leaving the service with immediate effect. The resignees, who had 100 years experience and service between them.
The Doolin unit has been long recognised as one of the top Irish Coast Guard teams in the country with highly trained and dedicated members qualified in a multitude of competencies.
Following the shock, Coast Guard management in Dublin confirmed that the Doolin team had been stood down and that they would not be tasked to any emergencies.
Speaking in the Seanad this afternoon, Clare Fianna Fáil Senator Timmy Dooley appealed to the Minister of State “to involve at the earliest possible opportunity some independent external expert in human resources to try to find a resolution.”
“Standing the operation down and suggesting the Coast Guard based at the Aran Islands or some other location will fill the void is just not feasible. There are currently 12 volunteers on the base and perhaps there is a way to get them up and running as a service. They certainly have the capacity to do some of the work. I do not want to be prescriptive but the Minister of State and the Department must intervene and bring in an external and independent expert. I hope such an expert could meet willingness on both sides to engage.”
Fine Gael Senator Martin Conway said: “We owe it to those people who have volunteered, both in the past and present, to resolve the matter. We owe it to the people they have rescued. We owe it to the families of the loved ones whose bodies have been recovered and brought home by the Doolin Coast Guard. We owe it to the people of County Clare and those who visit the county.
Most of all, we owe it to the people who use the coast to give them confidence that the superb Doolin Coast Guard is there if they get into trouble when fishing, surfing or swimming. When people get into difficulty, there is great confidence that the Doolin Coast Guard has the expertise and experience to come to their rescue. They have the equipment, determination and focus. There is a problem there and it is up to the Government to resolve it.”
Minister Hildegarde Naughton said: “The temporary standing down of the Doolin Coast Guard unit operation is a proportionate response, having regard to significant ongoing attempts by the Coast Guard to address the unfortunate differences that have existed within the unit for a number of years and their impact on the unit. However, attempts to resolve the situation to date have not been successful and I believe there is a role for an independent person or mediator to be appointed to the Doolin unit with a view to resolving the difficulties.
I intend to meet with officials in my Department shortly to discuss the next steps in the appointment of such a person.”