An Irish Coast Guard unit has been stood down following the resignation of six volunteers.
The Doolin Coast Guard unit in Co Clare has not been tasked to any land or water-based incidents since Monday. Other units and agencies are on standby for cover calls.
The Doolin Coast Guard team is a unit of The Irish Coast Guard and provides services such as cliff climbing, boat and land search teams.
A spokesperson for the Irish Coast Guard confirmed that operations were “stood down” on Monday evening and said: “Doolin Coast Guard Unit was stood down from operations yesterday evening.”
The Inis Oirr Coast Guard Unit, which falls under the direct management of the Doolin Unit, shall remain fully operational.
The spokesperson explained: “In the interim, (the Irish) Coast Guard is liaising with other SAR stakeholders in the area in order to provide cover for services that otherwise would be provided by the Doolin unit.”
The Irish Coast Guard also acknowledged that divisions have "unfortunately existed within the unit for a number of years.”
The spokesperson added: “(The Irish Coast Guard) recognises the strenuous efforts and leadership displayed by many members of the unit, its management team in particular, and other stakeholders to address these difficulties.
“Support (will continue to be offered) to all those affected by this event, and with the aim to strengthen the unit’s management structure, provide relevant training and mediation services as may be required, and return the unit to operational readiness as quickly as practicable.”
Representative association launched
The Doolin based unit was hit by tragedy five years ago when 41-year-old mother of two Caitriona Lucas from Liscannor, Co Clare lost her life while on a search operation for a missing man in the sea off cliffs near Kilkee on September 12th, 2016.
She was on board a rigid inflatable boat with two other coastguard members when the rib overturned throwing the occupants into the water.
Last week an Irish Coast Guard Volunteers Representative Association was launched, five years on from her death.
Ms Lucas was a highly experienced volunteer with the Irish Coast Guard’s Doolin unit when she was working with the Kilkee unit.
The ICGVRA will consist of current and former volunteers, and was launched in Kilkee, Co Clare over the bank holiday weekend following a commemoration for Ms Lucas.
Ms Lucas was the first member of the Irish Coast Guard to lose their life while on duty. She was involved in a search operation near Kilkee before the Delta Rib she was in capsized.
Her husband Bernard had previously called for the establishment of such an association to allow for volunteers to air their concerns.
In the Summer of 2020, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) decided that no criminal charges should be brought in relation to the incident after a report was forwarded to it by the Health and Safety Authority (HSA).
The unpublished HSA report was one of two separate investigations. The second report by the Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) proved so contentious that it had to be published in two parts, and the responses to the draft were longer than the report itself.
In a robust response, the Irish Coast Guard described the MCIB report as “flawed” and “misleading”, and argued that it was a “significant leap” to draw wider conclusions about safety standards based on one “tragic accident.”
A postmortem identified a trauma to the side of Ms Lucas’s head at a point where it should have been protected by her helmet.