One battle won - now for the war!

The confirmation by Minister Leo Varadkar in the Dail on Wednesday evening that Malin Head Coastguard station will not be axed has been warmly welcomed locally but, acccording to local action group, the Malin Head Save our Station Committee, the battle is far from over.

Seamus Bovaird, spokesperson for the group, said while the staff at Malin and its counterpart in Valentia see the Minister’s statement as positive they fear it could become “death by a thousand cuts” as Coastguard Service management impose their ideas of efficiencies.

Speaking yesterday with the ‘Journal’ Mr Bovaird said: “We mean to continue the campaign to have all 3 stations, Dublin, Malin Head and Valentia, treated equally as marine response centres for 3 Irish zones of responsibility for all IRCG activities. We do not want to see staff retire from Valentia and Malin and be replaced by jobs in Dublin. This still appears to be the IRCG management’s plan.”

He addeded: “We have been invited by the Minister to meet himself and his Department Secretary, Maurice Mullen, to discuss possible efficiencies and cost saving measures for the IRCG as a whole. We intend taking up this invitation as soon as possible

Joe McHugh TD who brought the Minister to Malin in July said he was delighted: “I applaud Minister Varadkar and coastguard service workers for the very sensible approach taken following the presentation of the Fisher ‘Value for Money’ Report to the Government last summer. Minister Varadkar obviously gave consideration to the findings of the report; he equally made time to speak with coastguard operatives, and he travelled personally to Malin Head coastguard station to observe the work that operators carry out there.

Sinn Féin TD, Pádraig Mac Lochlainn said the campaign fought by the local community in Malin Head and North Inishowen on behalf of the staff at the centre, ably supported by leading community activists in the peninsula and by all the local political representatives has proven to be successful.

”This is a ray of sunshine in tough times. It is a victory for people power and common sense”.

Agree with the local action committee view Fianna Fáil TD Charlie McConalogue warned,“We need a guarantee that this is not a token gesture to simply keep the doors of Malin Head Coastguard Station open, while also reducing its services. There has undoubtedly been a concerted effort recently to centralise Coastguard Radio services towards Dublin. I am seeking a commitment that the station will not be downgraded and that the central role it plays in the Irish Coastguard nationally will not be diminished.”

One of the key aspects of the battle to keep Malin open was the cross border nature of the support and yesterday SDLP Assembly Member john Dallat told the Journal: “I am over the moon about this decision.”

He went on: ‘Malin Head Coastguards are the benchmark for cross-border co-operation and care for the safety of all. The work of this station is second to none and their newly refurbished station is a beacon for coastguard operations anywhere in the world.

‘I am very proud to have been involved with the Malin Head Community Association and their campaign team, southern politicians and especially the SDLP which led in the charge to keep the station open as one of the best examples of cross-border co-operation.

He concluded: ‘This is a really good Christmas present and I look forward to meeting the coastguard officers and their supporters over the weekend.’

In a statement issued yesterday the staff at Malin Head thanked all who supported them