Oireachtas members from Donegal and Kerry presented a united front during often testy exchanges at the Oireachtas Transport Committee meeting on Wednesday when the Fisher Associates review of the Irish Coast Guard was brought before the committee for discussion.
This is the controversial review that recommends closure of the Malin and Valencia stations.
Speaking yesterday leading Inishowen marine activist Seamus Bovaird, who was a member of the Malin delegation, said the mood of the meeting was best summed by Independent TD, Michael Healy-Rae
Mr Bovaird said: “He (Healy-Rae) accused the civil servants in the department of following a long-term agenda to have everything in Dublin at the expense of Malin and Valentia. He referred to them being beaten down time after time but emerging again after a time with the same agenda but with different tactics to achieve it.”
In an unprecedented move Donegal and Kerry TD’s and senators arranged swaps with their party colleagues who are permanent members of the committee so that when the Department Assistant Secretary, Maurice Mullins, and Coast Guard senior management were brought in to defend their plans for the future of Malin Head and Valentia Radio stations they were faced by TD’s and Senator’s from the Malin Head and Valentia areas.
On the Donegal “team” were TD’s, Charlie McConnalogue, Padraig McLaughlin and Joe McHugh and Senators Brian O’Domhnaill and Jimmy Harte.
Mr. Bovaird agreed the questioning became heated as committee members kept coming back at the Coast Guard delegation to pin down definitive answers to certain questions, not always with success.
He commented:“Various weaknesses were exposed and, in the end, when Fianna Fail proposed that the authors of the Fisher report be brought before the committee it was immediately seconded by Labour and Fine Gael members, again showing the cross-party support that had worked all afternoon.
Maurice Mullin revealed that Fisher Associates have been given further work to do by the Department which should be completed in 3 to 4 weeks. It will then come back before the same Oireachtas committee along with its authors.
An indication of the cross border nature of the support came when John Dallat, MLA, led a delegation which include councillors from Coleraine and Limavady Councils who all spoke in support of Malin Head and its long record of service to the people of the North West coast.
In a separate development Donegal County Council is to throw its support behind Malin. Speaking at Monday’s meeting Councillor Bernard McGuinness said that people in the Inishowen were “very concerned and upset” about the question marks over the future of the station, which has been under threat since 2007.
“After all the money that has been spent on recently refurbishing the station, you have to question the logic of this whole thing,” he said. Sinn Féin Cllr Jack Murray described the station as a “critical” facility.
Deputy Co. Mayor and Labour Cllr Martin Farren said they could not put a price on lives and stressed that coastal area services must stay at Malin.