Coastguard’s survival is confirmed

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SHIPPING minister Mike Penning yesterday confirmed to the House of Commons that Northern Ireland will retain its only Coastguard station.

The Belfast Coastguard, based at Bregenz House in Bangor, was almost closed down earlier this year after Government announced it would reduce the number of centres in the UK from 18 to eight - with only three staying open 24 hours a day.

In a twist, Belfast was put up against Liverpool’s Coastguard in an “either/or” scenario.

However, in July it emerged that Belfast would be the one to keep its head above water.

North Down MP Lady Sylvia Hermon was a strong supporter of a News Letter campaign to keep Bregenz House open.

She said she was “really pleased” to be in the House of Commons to hear Mr Penning confirm his decision.

Lady Sylvia said the minister “also gave assurances about the continuing availability of Irish helicopters paid for by the Irish Government to assist the Northern Ireland Coastguard’s rescue efforts”.

SDLP South Down MP Margaret Ritchie also welcomed the announcement but expressed concern about the greater area Bregenz House may now have to cover after the closure of other UK stations.

“The minister has stated that the station in Bangor will now be expected to cover the area formerly covered by the paired station on the Clyde – I want to seek assurances that the Bangor station will be provided with any increased capacity necessary to cover this expanded remit.”