Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 13 July 2014

Coastguard reprieved — but job fears continue

“Grave concerns” remain over the future of Northern Ireland’s coastguard services despite a recent government U-turn that keeps the Bangor based life saving station afloat.

Last week, plans to close the station were scrapped and the revised plans were announced after the House of Commons transport committee said it received evidence from coastguards raising “serious concerns that safety will be jeopardised if these proposals proceed”. As a result commitments to keep Bregenz House open 24/7 were given.

However the union that represents coastguard workers say this is just the first step in ensuring Northern Ireland “keeps up the same level of service”.

Ian Graham, branch secretary of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union told the Community Telegraph: “We are so grateful for the support from members of the public, MLAs, the Executive, MPs, particularly Lady Sylvia Hermon who was there from the word go, and the decision to keep Bregenz House open is welcomed by us. However there are still grave concerns among staff regarding first of all the proposed concept of operations and also following on from that, the number of staff to be based in this station.

“The proposals still hold that the co-ordination of all life-saving operations will be done from a station based on the south of England.

“I don’t want to rain on the parade or diminish the efforts that have been made up to now, it was vital to make sure a station base was retained for the people of Northern Ireland.

“But the numbers they’re quoting in the proposals are not providing this service with enough staff. Lives are still at risk with these proposals, there isn’t one UK coastguard I have spoken to that doesn’t disagree with that. We need to keep fighting to safeguard the service. This was a small victory.”

Strangford MP Jim Shannon said: “The campaign to save Bangor Coastguard has been successful and I pay tribute to all those who worked with their elected representatives to bring this about. I also thank the First Minister and his Executive colleagues who made representations on behalf of the Bangor Coastguard campaign. This issue had cross party support in Northern Ireland and there was an extensive lobbying through our local press as well.

“The right decision has been made not just for Northern Ireland but also for the safety of our all those who use the waters around our coast. Without a doubt the closure of Bangor Coastguard Station would have put lives at risk. Those who use the waters around the Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland coastline now have certainty that if they get in to distress or danger they will have a reliable and speedy response from our local station in Bangor.”

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