Fianna Fáil TD for Wexford has described as backward and short-sighted a directive issued to Coast Guard members informing them that they are no longer permitted to use emergency lights and sirens on vehicles while driving.

The directive has caused concern among members of the Coast Guard as well as the public about the impact that this measure will have on response times.

Deputy Browne says the move further emphasises the need for the Coast Guard to be put on a statutory footing.

“The Coast Guard is one of Ireland’s most important and respected organisations and has a particular significance for the many coastal communities in Wexford who have relied on the services of the Coast Guard in times of need.  Towns and villages across the county have worked alongside Coast Guard members in keeping fishermen, bathers and walkers safe”, said Deputy Browne.

“The directive issued today is truly baffling and has led to concern about the Coast Guard’s ability to respond to emergency situations.  In fact, it only serves to highlight the need for the Coast Guard to be put on a statutory footing.  Despite being recognised as one of the four emergency services (along with the Fire Service, the National Ambulance Service and An Garda Síochána), it is the only one not to have standalone status.

“Last year Fianna Fáil brought forward the Irish Coast Guard Authority Bill 2018.  It places the Coast Guard on a statutory footing by creating the statutory Irish Coast Guard Authority.  This would ensure greater representation, more recognition, and would ultimately afford the same protections to the Coast Guard that the blue light services currently enjoy.

“The current situation does not give the Coast Guard the full recognition which it deserves.  The Minister needs to roll out emergency driver training for Coast Guard Volunteers, to restore their full use of emergency lights and sirens.   This will address the immediate problem, but a more medium to long term plan needs to be examined which will ensure that the Coast Guard is placed on legislative footing”, concluded Deputy Browne.