SDLP leader and South Down MP Margaret Ritchie has said the consultation into the closure of Bangor Coastguard station shows the British government underestimated the strong feeling within the local community and the ramifications that would be caused by its closure.
Ms Ritchie was speaking during a debate at Westminster on Tuesday where she congratulated the case put forth by local people and organisations to the consultation.
She said, “The fishing ports of Ardglass, Kilkeel and Portavogie know just how important the Bangor Coastguard station is and the necessity of maintaining a service that has developed a comprehensive knowledge of our seas.
“This is a process that has been marked by uncertainty and confusion. It is clear that they underestimated the value of the local knowledge developed over time by our vastly experienced coastguard personnel and were prepared to risk losing this vital asset.
“That the government now seems to be acknowledging that wide-scale closures would jeopardise safety and risk lives is testament to the powerful case that has been put forward during the consultation process by local communities and those that protect our waters.
“As the Bangor station co-ordinates closely with the Irish coastguard we would lose an absolutely vital resource for protecting all of Ireland’s waterways. Closing or downgrading the Bangor station would be a great loss not only to people in the North but for people in the Irish Republic.
“The courage of those who devote time to rescue efforts on our shores must not be taken for granted by government and funding for this centre, the only full time station in Northern Ireland, therefore must be protected,” said Ms Ritchie.