Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

Political leaders join battle to save coastguard

Political heavy weights and the public have united against the coalition goverment’s plans to disband the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) in Bangor.

The government’s plan is to reduce the number of UK centres from 18 to eight.

Only two of these services will operate on a 24 hour basis. And an incident in the Irish sea would be dealt with by teams scrambled from Liverpool. The remaining six will only be open during daylight hours.

It is not known yet whether the MRCC Belfast, based at Bregenze House on Bangor seafront, will be closed completely or become a ‘day light’ centre.

The Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) has already called on local people to contact their MPs and MLAs to try to save the Bangor coastguard.

Already the ‘Save NI Coastguard’ facebook page has 9,000 followers and a number of politicians here have taken the helm for the NI coastguard.

Strangford MP Jim Shannon raised the issue in a question to the Prime Minister in Parliament on January 12 and was angered by the response. He said: “There is UK-wide concern that cut backs in coast guard provision put lives at risk.

“I am disappointed that when I questioned the Prime Minister on the valuable work of the Bangor Coastguard Station, the best he could come up with was to talk in generalities. People in Northern Ireland waters should not be put at risk by Tory-Lib Dem budget cuts,” he added.

Ian Graham, of the PCS union, said: “We have support of around 9,000 members of the public, and the MLAs Alex Easton, Brian Wilson, Lady Sylvia Hermon have given us support too. We’re trying to get to the bottom of who wrote the consultation document.

“The entire document is filled with half truths, misleading statistics and the coordination side of it completely ridiculous.

“No matter where the 24 hour stations are their system just will not work,” he added.

North Down MLA Peter Weir said: “The battle to retain the coastguard control centre in Bangor is a vital fight to save lives, not just for the North Down area but also throughout Northern Ireland.

He welcomed the support of Margaret Ritchie and First Minister Peter Robinson.

Mr Robinson said: “The Coastguard Station at Bangor is performing a very valuable service keeping people safe and protecting lives.

Indeed, I will be visiting the facility in the coming weeks to learn more of its work and to demonstrate my ongoing support. I am also strongly opposed to the government's distasteful suggestion that the Bangor and Liverpool bases compete against each other for survival during the review of coastguard provision around the UK's coast.”

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