Seanad debates

Friday, 4 December 2009

Civil Defence Forces Equipment.


2:00 pm

Photo of Nicky McFaddenNicky McFadden (Fine Gael)

I thank the Minister of State for remaining to take this debate. He is certainly earning his keep. I hope he will be here for longer than 40 years at the rate that he is working.

The Minister of State saw the fantastic work of the Civil Defence when he was in Athlone. Several of its personnel told me it is under-resourced and how difficult it is for them to deal with emergencies such as that in the midlands. When the Civil Defence was set up in the 1950s its remit was voluntary air raid protection. It has evolved since then. Its remit was to look after the country in respect of hazards or the fall-out from nuclear disasters.

I cannot see it ever being able to cope with such a disaster but in the interim it can play an active role in more minor incidents such as flooding. Some of the equipment of the Westmeath branch is outdated, the ambulance has a 1994 registration, the minibus was bought in 1996, the pick-up in 1997 and it bought a Volvo truck in 1998, probably its best piece of equipment. Its transit ambulance is also very old.

Five years ago it requested a high-powered passenger jeep. Since it became a statutory body under the Civil Defence Act 2002 when the board was formed it has suffered by not being as well-resourced as it had been. It moved to Roscrea during Mr. Smith's term as Minister for Defence.

It does play an important role. I have never seen anything like its level of commitment. All the members, except the local coordinator, are volunteers. We should make sure it is properly resourced and has proper equipment for the safety of its members and that of the people they rescue. It has a new range of boats which is important and has served a great purpose. Its jeeps, however, need updating. While we realise the value of the Civil Defence let us not just pay lip service but take action to provide funding to resource it properly.


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