SDLP Leader and South Down MP Margaret Ritchie has paid tribute to coastguard workers involved in making and winning the excellent case for the retention of NI Coastguard Station.
She said, “I am delighted at the decision to retain a full-time coastguard in Belfast. This is a testament to the excellent case which was put forward with force and consistency by those who protect and work on our waterways. It is a wonderful victory and demonstrates people power in action.
“The news will come as a great relief to people across Northern Ireland, especially those in fishing communities such as Ardglass and Kilkeel in my own constituency.
“The government’s original plans were ill-thought to the point of being reckless and the consultation process was marked by confusion, indecision and uncertainty. I am delighted that they have seen sense and have recognised the NI Coastguard’s unique relationship with their search and rescue partners in the South.
“The British Government initially produced a rather vague proposal that technology could be employed in place of people. It was important to demonstrate that technology would supplement rather than replace the local knowledge built up by our coastguard service over time. Losing this local knowledge would not just mean losing a geographical or topological knowledge but would break the ties between a station and the local community it serves.
“The Bangor station is a truly cross-border service, operating on a North-South basis that is reliant on the local knowledge of our local coastguard. Indeed, in response to my parliamentary question, Minister Mike Penning revealed that the station has cooperated with the Irish Coastguard on over 100 operations in the past two years.
“Retaining the service will be welcome news across Ireland, and I would like to congratulate all those associated with our coastguard service for running such a successful campaign.”