Seanad debates

Thursday, 14 June 2012

2:00 am

Photo of Kathryn ReillyKathryn Reilly (Sinn Fein)
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I will be brief and to the point on this issue. I seek information on the progress made to date on the provision of a new fire station in Virginia, County Cavan. Approval in principle had been granted by the Department to Cavan County Council's proposal for the provision of a new fire station in Virginia, but that was a few years ago and it has not yet proceeded. A site is available to accommodate the new station in Virginia. A site is available also for a new fire station in Ballyjamesduff, the neighbouring town. The last I heard on the issue was that contract documents for the Virginia fire station are with the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government awaiting approval to go to tender. All the plans, estimates and survey works were submitted. All documents are in the Department but the delay is in respect of the granting of the project to go to tender.

Is the Department dragging its heels on the issue? What is the delay in moving this project forward? When will tenders be invited? When will construction work commence and when will this project advance or will it advance? Does the Department have a timeframe or has it shelved the project and not informed anyone? I would welcome any clarification the Minister of State can provide on the issue.

Photo of Ciarán CannonCiarán Cannon (Galway East, Fine Gael)
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The provision of a fire service in its functional area, including the establishment and maintenance of a fire brigade, the assessment of fire cover needs and the provision of fire station premises is a statutory function of individual fire authorities under section 10 of the Fire Services Act 1981. The Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government supports the fire authorities through setting general policy, providing a central training programme, issuing guidance on operational and other related matters and providing capital funding for priority infrastructural projects.

The Department's fire services capital programme has put in place infrastructure to support the local fire authorities in the development of a quality fire-fighting and rescue service. This commitment to the fire service has brought major improvements in the fire service infrastructure nationally over the past decade. This commitment to continuing investment in infrastructure and equipment, better training and the provision of improved communications infrastructure has brought major improvements.

Cavan county fire service has ten fire stations and responded to over 700 call-outs during 2010. New fire stations at Bailieborough, Belturbet, Cootehill and Dowra were completed in recent years at a cost of approximately €2.3 million which was wholly funded by the Department. Upgrade works to Killeshandra and Kingscourt fire stations have also been carried out by Cavan County Council.

Approval in principle was granted for the construction of a new fire station in Virginia under the 2000 fire services capital programme. Approval to prepare contract documents was granted in 2008. These contract documents were received in the Department in 2011 and are currently under consideration.

Much has been accomplished in the past decade to strengthen the infrastructure of fire services in Ireland. The significant resources provided to local authorities under the Department's fire services capital programme have resulted in a quality fire and rescue infrastructure throughout the country. Most of our fire stations have full facilities, the appliance fleet is in very good shape and specialist equipment is generally regarded as being of a very high standard.

Continued investment in the fire appliance fleet has been identified as a key national priority for capital investment, given the current constraints on public finances. To deliver cost efficiencies in line with the recommendations of the Local Authority Efficiency Review Group, a programme is currently under way which involves fire authorities aggregating demand and inviting tenders for 17 fire appliances following the development of an agreed national fire appliance specification. Since 2007, the Department has grant-aided some €1.3 million to Cavan County Council in respect of new fire appliances and other necessary fire and rescue equipment.

Further investment to support the redevelopment of Virginia fire station will be considered under future capital programmes within the constraints of reduced public finances and will have regard to the priorities of Cavan County Council, the value for money offered by proposals, the level of investment to date and the totality of demands from fire authorities country-wide for the limited funding available.