I am told that Captain Chris Reynolds, Director of the Coast Guard, is expected to appear before the Oireachtas Transport Committee on October 24. It appears that Senator Mark Daly has succeeded in getting a hearing about the proposals by Coast Guard management to close Valentia and Malin Coastal Radio Stations and centralise the service in Dublin, where it was also suggested that a support station to the main Dublin centre would be located in the constituency of the Minister for Transport in Blanchardstown. With a political row on-going about the location of health facilities in the constituency of the Minister for Health – though the reasons for this are different – and concern about the downgrading of rural areas, this whole affair could assume major proportions. However it has to be said that the national media is not giving it enough attention. There are serious issues about safety at sea involved.
As far as I remember the last time the Coast Guard had to defend a proposal in this manner was back in July 2008 when Minister Noel Dempsey, then responsible for the marine and Coast Guard management were also then trying to shut down the coastal radio stations.
That was a bit of a turning-point in that proposal which was shown to have a number of shortcomings – the basis for the proposal and the facts quoted became public issues. Eventually Noel Dempsey and Coast Guard management were faced down and had to admit defeat. It will be interesting to see what happens this time, but what has been disclosed of the background to the current closure attempts through freedom of information requests raises many questions about the management proposals. October 24 should be an interesting day at the Transport Committee.