Tuesday, 15 November 2022
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
I, too, join in the expressions of sympathy to the late Vicky Phelan.
I raise today the issue of fire services and retained fire services.As the Leader is aware, outside the main cities we rely very much on fire services operated by local authorities. As a result of the model that is currently in place, fire services across the country are experiencing many difficulties in recruitment and retention. The fire staff are paid a retainer, but, for that, they are expected to remain close to the fire station and could be called on at any time. That presents a difficulty if they are trying to keep down other employment at the same time as operating on a retainer. It is becoming increasingly difficult for the fire services. The model worked well when it was originally designed in the 1930s and 1940s but in modern society, where we travel significant distances, it is not a model that works. As the Leader is aware, there is a major Government programme of capital investment in fire stations across the country but it is not good enough that we have state-of-the-art fire stations without necessarily having the crews to staff them. Although negotiations have been going on between the unions, the Local Government Management Agency and the Department, a more comprehensive overview of how fire services operate in the modern age is needed. It is critical that we have well staffed and trained fire officers. Those who currently provide that service across the country do a wonderful service in all our communities but they are they are finding it difficult to get new staff to come on board, and then to retain them. This is happening not just in my home county of Wexford but across the country. They love what they do and are very committed to it. Part of it relates to pay and conditions but another part relates to flexibility and having enough numbers in all fire stations to be able to do the work. I ask for statements on the future of the fire service and an update from the Minister.