There was surprise in Malin Head yesterday evening when local TD Joe McHugh brought the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Leo Varadkar TD to visit the local Coastguard Station.
The visit was unexpcted as the station has been at the centre of controversy in recent times as it’s believed the government had plans to close it.
Minister Varadkar met with staff and inspected the Station at what Deputy McHugh described as a “working discussion between the Minister and workers at the Coastguard Station.”
However, while some locals felt the visit was a positive sign both the Minister and Deputy McHugh were careful not to make any public pronouncements as to its future.
Speaking to the Derry Journal after the meeting Deputy Joe McHugh said: “Minister Varadkar and the Government have been presented this summer with the Fisher report, which makes a range of recommendations about modernisation of national coastguard services.
“The Government has not made any decisions on recommendations within the Fisher Report to-date.
“I brought Minister Varadkar to Malin Head Coastguard Station today for a private visit to see what is a functioning part of his Department, and to meet with dedicated and experienced staff who provide coastguard services from Malin Head.
“Minister Varadkar saw first hand what happens at Malin Head Coastguard Station, which was the objective of today’s exercise. I am glad that Minister Varadkar has come to Malin Head today, to look at possible solutions to the challenges that lie ahead.”
Meanwhile, the minister seemed to be sending out a signal that some of the speculation might be premature.
He commented: “No decision has been made on the rationalisation of any services, including the closure of any service.
“As part of the Public Service Agreement and the Civil Service wide review of staffing levels and structures, the Department appointed consultants to carry out a strategic review of the maritime sector, in particular its marine survey functions and the marine emergency service such as the Coast Guard.
“The Department has published two reports arising from this review which have identified many very successful aspects of the Irish Coast Guard and maritime safety services.
“However, they also identified key deficiencies, including the provision of pollution response and volunteer training, which now have to be addressed. The Department has established a team to prepare an action plan to address the deficiencies which the Minister will present to Government in October.”