The campaign to save Asgard II has said it is “disappointed but not surprised” at the Government’s decision to abandon the national sail training programme in the Budget, writes Lorna Siggins in the Irish Times. The decision to abolish Coiste an Asgard “effectively shows this Government has no interest in young people,” said Capt Gerry Burns, campaign spokesman.Minister for Defence Willie O’Dea said this week that savings of 0.8 million euro annually would be made by discontinuing Coiste an Asgard. The committee ran the national sail training programme for people from all backgrounds who might have never had an opportunity to go to sea.
The €3.8 million insurance payment received for Asgard II has been transferred to the Department of Finance as extra Exchequer receipts, and the Department of Defence says there are no plans to provide sail training next year.
Almost half a million euro had recently been spent on refurbishing the Naval Service training yacht, Creidne, but the department said it would not be availing of it for a youth programme as it could take “only eight trainees and is not capable of providing a full sail training experience”.
The Arklow-built brigantine Asgard II sank off the French coast in September 2008, and the captain, crew and all volunteers were safely rescued. Initially, Mr O’Dea indicated that the ship might be raised; when this was ruled out, he said that a replacement of steel would be built.
However, last summer’s McCarthy report on public service numbers and expenditure recommended abandoning sail training as an option to save an annual 0.8 million euro, and Mr O’Dea indicated in August (09) that he might accept this.
This was in spite of the fact that the 3.8 million insurance payment for the ship had been paid by insurers Allianz.
Then in early September (09), Mr O’Dea reversed his position when he expressed optimism that a replacement ship would be found. “I have written to my colleague, the Minister for Finance, telling him that we would love to replace the Asgard with a steel-hulled vessel. The €3.8 million would obviously be very useful to us in doing that because the cost would be estimated at between €3.5 to €4 million,” he told reporters at the Naval Base, Haulbowline, in September.
“We could do it without dipping into our own resources,”Mr O’Dea said, adding that he also hoped to secure funding to the naval patrol ships, LE Emer and the LE Aoife.
Patrol days for the Naval Service have been cut in the Budget in a bid to save expenditure.Raise the Asgard - Afloat's 2008 online petition