Waterford Minister for Mental Health & Older People, Mary Butler TD, has said that the Department of Transport must take every possible step to ensure business as usual at Waterford’s Rescue 117 during the transition process between operators of rescue services.

Minister Butler stated: “Following Government approval, the contract for the next generation Irish Coast Guard Search and Rescue Aviation Service contract was signed with Bristow Ireland Limited on 11 August 2024.

“The Department have advised that they, alongside the Coast Guard, will facilitate, support, and expects to see, a safe and orderly transfer of operations between the outgoing contractor (CHCI) and Bristow Ireland.

“The transition will be a gradual process. The new aviation service will be introduced on a phased basis between now and July 2025, with the first SAR Base not going ‘live’ until Q4 2024.

Minister Butler continued: “I am further advised that Bristow Ireland are engaging constructively with FORSA and UNITE trade unions, and also with CHCI on a regular basis with a view to agreeing the modalities for the transfer of responsibility of the service, including staff, in line with the contractual obligations of both service providers.

“Most importantly, Minister Eamon Ryan’s office has provided assurances this morning that the temporary closure of Waterford, or any other SAR Base, is not envisaged under the Bristow transition plan.

Minister Butler concluded: “During this transition phase, the continued safe, compliant and effective operation of SAR aviation services is the overarching priority for all concerned.

“The Department of Transport has been assured that the transition process will not undermine existing service delivery.

“This is very welcome as every possible step must be taken to ensure business as usual at Rescue 117. Any temporary closure of services would be unconscionable as it would constitute a serious risk to life.”