Sinn Féin TD for Wicklow John Brady has welcomed the confirmation from Minister Darragh O’Brien that a review of the model of local authority Retained Fire Service delivery will now take place.
This review comes following repeated representations from Teachta Brady, and will maintain a particular emphasis on the critical issue of recruitment and retention.
Teachta Brady said:
“This is a particularly important development for the members of the Retained Fire Service.
“I have been insistent with the Minister from the outset that the issue of recruitment and retention be made the focus of the review, which has been approved by the Management Board of the National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management.
“I have been adamant from the outset that while there are many issues with the Retained Fire Service, the reality is that this issue is a matter of life and death.
“Let me clear, if the issue of recruitment and retention is not addressed, Retained Fire Fighters or members of the public may be seriously injured, or even die.
“This simply cannot be allowed to occur.
“Firefighters put their lives on the line every time they answer a call. In 2007 Firefighters Brian Murray, and Mark O’Shaughnessy gave their lives in the line of duty.
“We do not want to see the death or injury of another Firefighter in Wicklow, or anywhere else in the country due to the failure to address the serious issues with the service.
“But if the issue of staffing levels is not addressed, the government and local authorities are endangering the welfare of Firefighters everywhere.
“The Minister, Wicklow County Council, or any other body/organisation that has listened to myself or the Firefighters are quite aware at this stage that the Retained Fire Service is not fit for purpose.
“They will also know that for a long time there has been an urgent need to address the failings in regard to recruitment and retention of Retained Fire Fighters across the country.
“There have been instances where Fire Services were unable to respond to emergencies due to a shortage of Fire Fighters, and in other instances, some Fire Stations have been forced to close.
“Fire Service management figures have previously recognised the challenges that the Retained Fire Service face and have admitted that the Fire Service is not ‘fit for purpose’.
“The Minister has informed me that the objective is to explore and understand the issues which are impacting on service delivery, to undertake research and analysis and to propose options which will underpin the continuing provision of effective and inclusive local authority fire services into the future.
“The Minister must ensure that both serving and firefighters that have left the service are consulted as part of the review.
“This review must not become a whitewash, it must look at all the issues including the structures of the service.
“The Minster must also commit to publishing the report once complete and fully implement any findings to ensure we have a service that is fit for purpose in the 21st Century.”