Tuesday, 14 May 2019
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
Pat Gallagher (Donegal, Fianna Fail)
I have a question for the Taoiseach in his capacity as Minister for Defence. I corresponded with the Taoiseach's office on Easter Tuesday regarding wildfires in west Donegal over Easter, specifically on Good Friday and Easter Monday. I received a response to that correspondence. Homes and outhouses were burned and thousands of acres of land were destroyed. I also wrote to the Minister of State with responsibility for Defence. Have the Taoiseach and the Minister of State reviewed the matter of the delay of seven hours in mobilising a helicopter from Baldonnel to west Donegal? The local authority made an emergency request for it at 9.30 a.m. and I made one at 10.30 a.m. directly to the Minister of State. At 1.30 p.m., I understood the aircraft was not coming but shortly afterwards we were told it would come. It arrived at 5 p.m. I give full credit to the crew that arrived at Carrickfinn Airport and saved the village of Kincasslagh. Prior to its efforts, the efforts against the fires were led by the Donegal firefighters, the Civil Defence, gardaí and a private helicopter that the council had arranged from early in the morning. Thousands of volunteers put their lives at risk to ensure that the fire could be contained on the day. All the fire services and other bodies played a major role in containing the fire.
The Taoiseach must establish why it took seven hours for the helicopter to arrive, although the crew did an exceptional job when it arrived and should be given full marks. Let us learn from the incident. What protocols are in place and has the Taoiseach requested a full written review of the circumstances of that day?