An Independent TD for Wexford has called for a guarantee that the Waterford-based Search and Rescue Service will be retained and said lives will be risked if the service is not there.

Verona Murphy said that concerns have been growing over the future of the service.

A cross-party group of 17 TDs and senators from the south east are seeking guarantees from the Minister for Transport for the retention of the service. The group, representing politicians from Waterford, Wexford, Carlow, Kilkenny and Tipperary, is to write to Eamon Ryan seeking an urgent meeting.

At a meeting yesterday, there was said to be "unanimous support" for retaining the Rescue 117 service.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Ms Murphy explained that Waterford Airport has not been given the guaranteed funding that was put in place by former transport minister Shane Ross.

She said that the regional airport's future success plan is dependent on providing a passenger service and in that, that a base is retained for the search and rescue service.

Unfortunately that money is not forthcoming, she said, and this is giving rise to concerns over the future of the search and rescue service.

She added that a pre questionnaire for the tendering process for the search and rescue services is only asking for a minimum of three helicopters and one fixed wing.

However the current service provides five helicopters and a fixed wing.

"So we want to ensure that there is no diminution of the service," she said.

Verona Murphy said the current search and rescue service in Waterford was used 900 times last year - an increase of 200.

In addition, she said, there has been a 400% increase on direct traffic from Rosslare to France.

Minister Ryan has said that he does not expect Waterford to be in danger of losing its search and rescue base.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, he said they have "a lot of interest" and will go to a tender process, which he said must be done in a "proper, organised way" so they get the best value and service.

He said it is a life and death issue that they have to get right. "And I'm confident that we will and can," he said.

He said he has already engaged with "a good number" of the cross-party group pf 17 TDs and senators and that "will continue".