Noel Dempsey will have blood on his hands if the Coast Guard Search and Rescue (SAR) service based at Waterford Airport, as has been proposed, is reduced from 24 hours to 12.
Label what I’ve just written as sensationalist: I really don’t care. There is no concealing the latest, preposterous, cack-handed proposal being considered by the most out of touch Government in the history of the State.
If this proposal becomes reality and you get into difficulty off our coast a couple of years from now at night, your chances of survival will be considerably reduced. There’s no avoiding that conclusion.
The prospect of the Dublin-based Coast Guard helicopter crew retrieving a body, as opposed to saving a life, while the Killowen-based helicopter sits idle is an appalling prospect.
That a cut of this kind could even be envisaged for any of our four Coast Guard bases which (please note) conduct operations on the largest territorial waters in the European Union, is ludicrous in itself.
This is not about pitting Waterford against Dublin, Sligo or Shannon, where the Coast Guard’s other helicopters are based.
Indeed, this whole ‘them against us’ debate, driven by sections of the Dublin media who rarely directly talk to the people they frequently write of, is beyond tiresome at this stage. Surely we should be beyond reducing everything to the level of a schoolyard squabble.
This is about preserving life; this is about keeping misery off our TV screens and our news stands. This is about basic human decency.
All four Coast Guard SAR bases ought to be safeguarded from Government cuts, a point even a six-figure earning senior civil servant would surely concede – at least you’d like to think so.
But to think that a cut is being considered in the region where four crewmen serving this country lost their lives just over a decade ago goes beyond crass insensitivity. It is simply wrong, wrong, wrong.
And it appears that the general public, weary on half-truths spun in Tribunals, weary of Ministers occupying briefs they should never have been let near in the first place, weary of institutional incompetence, have finally had enough.
As Waterford City Councillor Mary Roche put it last week, the proposed Coast Guard service reduction looks like becoming the moment that the people of the region finally lost patience with this Government.
Given the massive support for an online campaign to save the 24-hour service, it appears that “the people of the south east will finally say ‘NO MORE’ and get up and work together” (Cllr Roche).
All the years that people in Waterford, South Kilkenny, South Tipperary, Wexford and Carlow have been fobbed off and treated like second class citizens have taken its toll.
The sugar beet industry? Not worth saving. Waterford Crystal? Not worth saving. Even Waterford’s existing rail links to Rosslare and Limerick Junction are not considered by those on high as worth saving: so much for thinking green.
Radiotherapy provision for the region was repeatedly fudged for years, while promised funding for a custom-built palliative care (Hospice) building for the region has suffered the same fate. WIT’s long-running campaign for University status? Repeatedly fudged.
Two more examples: how about the lack of ambulance provision for Carrick-on-Suir or the lack of a 24-hour social care service that could have saved the lives of a Wexford mother and her two daughters in 2005? The list goes on and on and on.
Writing in The Sunday Times of March 14th, Matt Cooper claimed that Martin Cullen’s greatest talent in ministerial office was “parochial posturing on behalf of his Waterford base”.
If all Mr Cullen did was posture to his base (a gross exaggeration), then he didn’t posture nearly enough, being a minister from a region with one of the worst unemployment rates in the Republic.
And if you come from the ‘It’s the Ecomony, Stupid’ line of political thinking, then his so-called posturing over the past eight years didn’t register too highly on the decibel reader at cabinet level.
But, if the thousands who have signed up for the Facebook campaign to retain the SAR service’s 24-hour status offers any indication, those in power will be deafened by the public’s outrage. Enough really is enough.