Controversy rumbling in Bonmahon
Mr Power had been OIC at Bonmahon since 2004 for a service which has, as the Marine Times put it, “full cliff rescue status for emergency response”.
He led a team which consisted of himself, a Deputy OIC and 15 members, all operating on a voluntary basis (albeit in receipt of a small call-out fee) and are therefore, as we understand it, not regarded as staff by the Department of Transport.
Mr Power said he was initially stood down before being told he had been dismissed as OIC, which he believes represents an over-reaction to “what, in other employment, would be considered a difference of opinion”.
He added: “I have tried and made every effort to have this discussed and to find out what is the reason (he was dismissed). I have witnesses in the unit who saw what happened (the incident dates back to August last) and were prepared to say that there was no question of unsatisfactory behaviour on my part.”
This newspaper understands that the two other unit volunteers who have been dismissed at Bonmahon were among those witnesses.
Seamus Power raised his concerns with Minister Halligan, prompting the Minister’s letter to Eugene Clonan.
He wrote: “If what Mr Power suggests is accurate, I have to admit I find it utterly incomprehensible that a voluntary member of the service with such an impeccable track record and longevity of service could have been treated in such an appalling fashion.” Minister Halligan has raised the matter with Independent Alliance colleague and Transport Minister Shane Ross, who has responsibility for the Coast Guard, and has called for a “full and urgent investigation” to establish if procedure was correctly adhered to.
Seamus Power claimed: “I am not the only one who has been treated in this fashion. Any volunteer who does not roll over and do what management wants is being taken out. I do not know what they are at, but they have not followed procedures as they should have as far as I am concerned and I feel that my good name has been taken from me…Criminals have a better chance to defend themselves than a voluntary member of the Coast Guard.”
Given the holiday season, the Department of Transport were not in a position to respond to a query for this week’s newspaper.
But when previously contacted by the Marine Times, a spokesperson stated: “The Coast Guard appreciates the responsibility undertaken by the volunteer rescue units and values the commitment and dedication of the Coast Guard volunteers. All HR (Human Resources) associated with Coast Guard Volunteers are dealt with in accordance with Coast Guard practice and procedure and it is not a matter which the Department considers appropriate to comment.”
It’s worth noting that Mr Power admitted to a “previous disagreement” with management regarding a personnel matter, but he’s adamant that (as the Marine Times put it) “this was not the source of the incident last August which resulted in his dismissal”.
* We will have more on this matter in future editions.