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Minister targets Northern Ireland's coastguards

Northern Ireland’s only dedicated Coastguard station was not originally among a list of bases earmarked for closure, it has |been revealed.

But the Bangor base was added to a list of threatened stations after a personal intervention from Shipping Minister Mike Penning.

The minister yesterday confirmed to the House of Commons that the original draft devised for streamlining the UK's service named Liverpool as the centre that should be shut down.

Under a massive shake-up of the service that will leave just three full-time stations across the UK, Belfast Lough is being pitted against the Liverpool base.

DUP MP Ian Paisley jnr and SDLP leader Margaret Ritchie raised fears over the loss of local knowledge, arguing the technology — which has yet to be developed — planned for the new-look service will not plug the gap.

Mr Paisley claimed the plans to axe the base would leave the coast “naked to the ravages of the sea”.

Ms Ritchie, South Down MP, warned English and Scottish Coastguards would be left to rely on technology like Google Earth.

She said: “This frontline emergency service has saved countless lives since its establishment and in the past year alone its Northern Ireland team have dealt with more than 700 incidents.

“Chief executive of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, Sir Alan Massey, has indicated that the closures can be offset with the introduction of new technologies, such as Google Earth.

“Nothing can replace the |local knowledge of the waterways that has been built up over |generations in areas such as |south Down.”

Mr Penning unveiled proposals in December that would see only three full-time Coastguard stations operating in the UK — Aberdeen, Southampton and Dover.

Belfast Telegraph