June 6, 2023
Minister Darragh O’Brien must intervene to address issues at heart of Retained Fire Service recruitment and retention crisis – John Brady TD

Sinn Féin TD John Brady has called on Minister Darragh O’Brien to immediately intervene to address the core issues at the heart of the recruitment and retention crisis following the scheduled commencement of industrial action today.

The National Retained Firefighters Association (NRFA) have reluctantly been forced into industrial action as a consequence of decades of mismanagement by successive governments. 

There are close to 2,000 members of the Retained Fire Service in 200 Fire Stations across the state. They have responsibility for the provision of 24/7 emergency response. This places significant restrictions on members who must be on-call at all times within five minutes travel time of their Fire Station.

Teachta Brady said:

“Retained Fire Fighters have today commenced industrial action at Retained Fire Stations across the state. If the government continues to refuse to address the core issues at the heart of the recruitment and retention crisis in the Retained Fire Service, members of the NRFA will be reluctantly forced to close half of all stations in one week’s time. And, if no meaningful attempt is made by the government to address the ongoing difficulties, all Retained Fire Stations will close in two weeks’ time.

“The members of the Retained Fire Service are dedicated professionals. Professionals who regularly put their lives on the line in the course of their duty. They do not want to be in this position but feel that they absolutely have no other recourse in order to focus attention on the crisis in the Retained Fire Service, which is threatening the safety of both firefighters and members of the public.

“What the NRFA are seeking includes an increased pay structure, with more structured time off for staff, along with further talks with key stakeholders, which would include proposals within an agreed timeframe for the restructuring of the Retained Fire Service to ensure its future operation.

“Retained Fire Fighters are understaffed and under-resourced. They are on 24/7 call-out and must be within five minutes travel time from their station at all times. The recruitment and retention crisis has deteriorated to the point that, in some areas, there are more positions advertised than there are applicants for roles.

“Understaffing means that all already stretched staff must take on even more shifts and responsibilities. According to reports emerging since the weekend on social media, Shannon Airport was forced to close for a period due to a shortage of Fire Service personnel. Due to staff shortages, there were only four Retained Fire Fighters available in the area, and the Shannon Airport Fire Service itself was also short-staffed. This led to a number of international flights being delayed.

“This is indicative of how stretched the Retained Fire Fighters are, and how this is causing both safety and economic concerns.

“In November, I introduced a Dáil motion that sought the establishment of a Joint Oireachtas cross-party committee, to sit for a period of four months, and that would have heard evidence from expert witnesses and stakeholders in order to identify the key issues impacting on the Retained Fire Service. Following which it would have brought recommendations to government. 

“The government took the decision to vote against my motion, abandoning any attempt to resolve the recruitment and retention crisis that is crippling the Retained Fire Service. At the time Minister Darragh O’Brien, in front of a packed gallery of Retained Firefighters justified his opposition to the motion on the basis of a commitment to bring forward proposals to address the recruitment and retention crisis.

“I am calling on Minister Darragh O’Brien to immediately intervene to address the core issues at the heart of the recruitment and retention crisis in the Retained Fire Service. Failure to resolve the recruitment and retention crisis will put the lives of firefighters and the public at risk.” 

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