Page last updated at 13:25 GMT, Thursday, 22 March 2012

Social Development Committee

A representative from the Community Rescue Service has said he had been told that the social development minister would not be "supporting them directly" on their plans to provide rescue provision on the River Lagan in Belfast, on 22 March 2012.

Sean McCarry said he had attended a briefing with Nelson McCausland and spoke of the service's safety proposals in the wake of the death of Joby Murphy.

The 20-year-old from Glengormley died after falling from a bridge into the Lagan Weir in the early hours of 26 January.

Mr McCarry said he had been assured by the minister's permanent secretary, Will Haire, that he would receive a reply.

"We haven't heard a word from him since," he said.

"I was told they issued a letter on back of a report they had got saying they would not be supporting the CRS directly and it would be referred back to the PSNI."

The DUP's Alex Easton said he was "disappointed" by Mr McCarry's experience with Mr Haire.

He proposed that the committee write to the official, and they agreed to do this.

Sean McCarry said the CRS was established as the police felt there was not an adequate response for people who went missing in inland waters.

He said his service currently had two rescue boats on "a short-term fix" assigned to the River Lagan but that the Department of Social Development controlled their ability to put boats permanently in the water.

The social development committee also heard from Lagan Search and Rescue Service.

Philip Batt told the committee he had recently resigned from the CRS as he had recognised a "shortfall in provision" on the River Lagan and had been told at that time there were "no plans to roll out boats" onto the river.

He said he wanted his service to be a "dedicated response just for the Lagan" which would also offer safety patrols at key times.

Mr McCarry later explained he been in confidential talks with the police and had been unable to discuss plans to place search and rescue boats on the water full-time.

He said he could not support another dedicated service as "it is a complete duplication of what we are already doing and it confuses and causes problems".

Alex Maskey, chair of the committee, said the provision would be followed up with the minister and his department but he did believe Mr McCausland had written to confirm his department "wasn't going to support this".

"We would not be deciding who would provide the service... but there is a need for a service," Mr Maskey said.

Social development committee membership

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