*Photograph: Brian Arthur

MEMBERS of the Doolin Coast Guard will be stood down permanently with the unit to be reconstituted in the short-term before a broader appointment process will commence.

Junior Minister, Hildegarde Naughton (FG) has requested the Irish Coast Guard to begin reconstituting the Doolin Coast Guard unit following receipt of a report and recommendation from independent mediator, Kieran Mulvey.

On November 2nd, the unit was stood down from operations and training activities in the aftermath of six volunteers resigning. These departures en bloc were unprecedented and occurred between October 27th and 29th.

As recommended in Mulvey’s report, members of the Doolin Unit will be permanently stood down. The unit will be re-constituted in the short term by temporarily appointing volunteers who Coast Guard believe can work and operate together. This is hoped to address the situation presented by the absence of a functioning Doolin Coast Guard Unit.

A broader appointment process will commence in due course with the view to permanently restoring the Coast Guard Unit in the Doolin area prior to next summer. Other recommendations in the report are also to be implemented, the Department of Transport confirmed.

Inaction on the matter is not an option where there is a situation that a person may find themselves in trouble on or near the water into the future and require the assistance of a locally-based Coast Guard Unit, Naughton stated. She said, the provision of a robust and fully operational Coast Guard Unit to the Doolin area is the priority.

Doolin’s unit is regarded as having a commendable record in the Irish Coast Guard Service with an impressive track record of rescue operations. It covers an area which includes some of the most visited tourist venues in the country, including the iconic Cliffs of Moher and the ferry services to the Aran Islands

Writing in his report, Mulvey outlined, “Regretfully I have formed the conclusion that no form of mediation will lead to a resolution of the matters of disputation in the Unit”.

He held separate meetings with the sector manager of the region, the existing twelve volunteers and the six resigned volunteers in Doolin station on the evening of Monday November 22nd. “Some volunteers were expecting a further one to one engagement, but I indicated that the process I was conducting did not envisage such engagements and that the earlier engagements did not lead to a conclusion or resolution of the issues in dispute”.

Analysis of the interviews “did not reflect well on the interpersonal relationships within the Unit and the implications of this and other aspects of the operation of the station and for the future of the Unit,” Mulvey stated.

Issues raised dealt with interactions to the management of the Coast Guard service, the lack of feedback from Graphite and Departmental interviews, increasing constraints on the local operation of equipment and training opportunities, storage quality and utilisation of equipment plus previous resignations. Volunteers expressed the view that the bureaucracy around procedures, form filling and increasing health and safety regulation was leading to “an adverse to risk culture in the service”.

Volunteers did not respond to the mediator’s attempts to get an engagement on the identification of the interpersonal difficulties between them and which formed such a major and negative narrative in the Graphite HRM Report from February 2020. This report flagged “a complete absence of trust , respect and in some cases an absence in terms of a desire to resolve matters. The issues are entrenched within many years of interpersonal differences and disputes which now involves potentially nearly half the members within the Doolin Unit”. Absence of one to one interviews and individual feedback following this report is viewed as one of the primary reasons for the six resignations.

Mulvey who is also Chair of Sport Ireland stated in his report that Doolin requires “a permanent and functional Coast Guard Unit”. Members must now make “sensitive and personally challenging decisions in the interest” of the unit’s restoration, he recommended.

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If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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