Sinn Féin Spokesperson for Transport, Tourism and Sport Imelda Munster TD has expressed serious concerns about the latest directive issued to staff and volunteers of the Irish Coast Guard stating that Coast Guard drivers are no longer permitted to use blue lights and sirens while driving on public roads.
Deputy Munster said:
“I am astounded that this retrograde step has been taken which will cause dangerous delays to Coast Guard drivers as they make their way to assist in emergency situations which all too often can be of a life or death nature.
“Irish Coast Guard vehicles are fitted with blue lights and sirens and although drivers were never permitted to use high speeds or break lights, the use of lights and sirens has always played an essential part in alerting other road users to make way for them so that they could get to their destination as quickly as possible.
“Although the directive, which was issued this month, outlined how there is a ‘risk’ with not following the Emergency Services Driving Standards (ESDS) voluntary code based around three training levels for drivers of emergency vehicles, with only the highest level permitted to use blue lights and sirens, there was absolutely no mention of providing training or a date of when training would be completed.
“Volunteer units from the Irish Coast Guard conducted over 1,100 missions in 2018 and saved more than 400 lives. The Drogheda Coast Guard Unit alone attended 86 emergency call outs in 2018; 17 people were rescued by this unit and a further 20 people were saved from entering the water.
“They are also frequently called out to liaise with helicopter services and other medical emergency missions where time is of the essence.
“I will be raising this matter in the Dáil and I would urge the Minister for Transport to intervene so that this nonsensical and poorly thought out directive which may undoubtedly cause loss of life can be reversed.This retrograde step could have very serious impact on their operations and their ability to respond to normal emergencies without delay when they are traveling to incidents.
“The priority now should be to ensure that all volunteers and full-time staff are trained to the highest level as a matter of urgency.”