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The battle to retain our coastguard must continue

I wish to express my sincere gratitude and support to all those throughout Northern Ireland who are active in lobbying to save the Northern Ireland Coastguard.

Party colleagues in the north Down area have been working hard to ensure the retention of the full service in Bangor.

The Belfast coastguard provides an invaluable service to all those who use our sea, waterways and coastlines.

I have raised my concerns with the European commissioner for transport, Siim Kallas, highlighting the fact that the UK Department of Transport is currently consulting on modernisation proposals which may have an impact on service provision.

I have asked Commissioner Kallas about the strategies he has in place to ensure that there are adequate levels of protection for people at sea.

I also met with Secretary of State Owen Paterson to discuss this issue and am delighted that he has publicly backed the retention of the NI Coastguard.

I believe that, without a local, fully-operational coastguard centre, lives will undoubtedly be put in danger, or lost. I hold firm to my belief that Northern Ireland must not be the only devolved region without a coordination centre.

I urge everyone to continue to lobby - we must never underestimate the power this can have.

JIM NICHOLSON MEP

Ulster Unionist Party

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