The proposal being considered by the Deparment of Transport to decommission Valentia Coastguard Station must be opposed by all who have an interest in Irish maritime affairs. Transport Minister Noel Dempsey (from practically landlocked Meath) is pushing the proposal to recentralise all coastguard co-ordination to two new centres at Galway and Drogheda. If this proceeds 17 people will lose their jobs at Valentia Island in Co. Kerry or be re-located to one of the other centres.
Valentia has co-ordinate marine rescue efforts off Ireland's south and west coast for decades and has done it very well. In 2007 to date more than 600 people can thank Valentia Coastguard for the fact that they are alive and in 2004 it was involved in some 3,000 rescue call-outs.
It is indeed a measure of the present government that it lumps Marine and Transport under one government deparment with Marine being very much the poor relation. As an island nation the marine is vital to our economic wellbeing and our future. We have just had our territorial area extended to give us a 200 mile limit with regard to ownership of underwater resources around off our coast. Minister Dempsey of course does not have a good record in relation to protecting these resourcesa as the people of North West Mayo could tell you. Let us hope that the government will not give away our oil and gas resources for practically nothing as in the recent past.
Getting back to Valentia it is essential that a campaign be mounted in the South West to fight for its retention. We can ill afford its loss.