Written answers

Wednesday, 6 October 2021

Department of Housing, Planning, and Local Government

Fire Service

Photo of Róisín ShortallRóisín Shortall (Dublin North West, Social Democrats)
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44. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government the steps he is taking to address staff shortages in Dublin Fire Brigade given the seriousness of the situation in respect of emergency response coverage; if he is engaging with union representatives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48594/21]

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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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 the Fire Services Act, 1981. My Department supports fire authorities through setting general policy and national standards, providing a central training programme, issuing guidance on operational and other related matters and providing capital funding support for equipment and priority infrastructural projects.

Dublin City Council provides fire prevention and fire and rescue services for the four Dublin local authorities: Dublin City, South Dublin, Fingal and Dún Laoghaire/Rathdown County Councils. It also provides an emergency ambulance service by arrangement with the National Ambulance Service of the HSE.

The prioritisation of work and effective management of all resources is, in the first instance, a matter for the fire authority, based on its assessment of risk, needs and resources. In relation to the staffing requirements in each local authority, under the Local Government Act 2001, it is the responsibility of each Chief Executive to employ such staff and to make such staffing, funding, recruitment and organisational arrangements as may be deemed necessary for the purposes of carrying out the functions of their local authority.

In relation to staffing in Dublin Fire Brigade, I am aware that the most recent fire-fighter recruitment campaign began in September 2019; all recent fire brigade recruit training has taken place in the shadow of the pandemic, which has placed considerable additional challenges on the process. The first class of recruits from that campaign began training in April 2020 and have taken up positions across the brigade. A second recruit class began training in June 2021 and will finish this December to take up positions across the brigade in January 2022. A further third recruit class will begin training early in February 2022 with a start date for a fourth and final class of the remaining panelled recruit’s currently under review.

The provision of fire services by local authorities is based on a statutory risk management approach which involves an analysis of the nature of the fire hazards and the incidence and extent of fires which occur, as well as the fire protection measures in place. There has been a welcome downward trend in the incidence of fire, with the fire fatality rate per million of population, using a three year average, currently at 4.3 deaths per million of population. While each death is one too many, this figure is a third of what it was twenty years ago when it stood at 12.9 deaths per million of population. That level of fire fatalities positions Ireland among countries with very low fire fatality rates. As this is Fire Safety Week 2021, I remind everybody of the importance of testing their smoke alarms regularly and I commend the kind of community fire safety initiatives aimed at protecting the most vulnerable in our society, which are undertaken by fire services and are seen a key driver of the welcome downward trends.

Local Authority fire services in Ireland is staffed by over three thousand professional, competent and highly committed personnel in the full-time and retained fire services. Local authorities, as the funders and the employers of fire service personnel, have demonstrated their commitment to this service over the past number of years. The number of frontline fire service staff have been maintained at a consistent high level throughout the economic challenges of the past number of years, even at a time when staffing numbers were of necessity reduced in other areas of the local authorities.

With regard to staffing in Dublin Fire Brigade, I understand that Dublin City Council, as the employer, has engaged in an extended process with firefighter representative bodies, Fórsa and SIPTU at the Workplace Relations Commission. Unfortunately, the parties were not able to reach agreement on all the issues at this time, some of which are intended to alleviate pressures caused by current staffing arrangements. I encourage all parties involved to re-engage and to continue to use the State's established statutory industrial relations machinery to resolve the issues concerned.


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