THE LINE OF FIRE – Dublin Fire Fighters’ Plight ignites Dáil Debate

by Rose Barrett
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Rose Barrett

The ongoing issues of staff shortages and poor resources in Dublin Fire Brigade was a hot topic on the Dáil agenda this week.

Sinn Féin’s Deputy Paul Donnelly led the posse in the Dáil this week when he raised the staffing crisis and poor resources of Dublin Fire Brigade (DFB), and called on the government to intervene.

There was overwhelming support for the SF TD’s motion, with deputies across the political landscape lauding praise and support for DFB.

Deputy Paul Donnelly submitted the motion on Tuesday (Dec 7) and described members of DFB as feeling “demoralised”  and being close to “burn-out” after exhausting service since the start of the pandemic.

As Dublin continues to grow in population, his fellow party TDs, Louise O’Reilly, Aenghus O’Snodaigh, Sean Crowe, Eoin Ó’Broin, Chris Andrews and Dessie Ellis supported Donnelly’s motion, citing the bravery and dedication of DFB members, who put their lives on the line.

Deputy Donnelly’s motion followed a meeting with shop stewards and fire service workers on Monday (Dec 6) to discuss the lack of resources within the fire service, an issue DFB has been highlighting for years.

On October 13, Dublin Firefighters gave notice of their intention to ballot for industrial action, stating the safety of firefighters and members of the public was compromised.

Eight weeks later, a solution has not been reached, and members of DFB remain frustrated,  disillusioned and fearful for their safety.

Teachta Donnelly said during his meeting with Dublin firefighters and their union representatives, “Workers expressed concerns about the shortage of personnel…and the condition/age of existing fire equipment. Just last week, there were four fire engines off the road – and no reserve appliances available. 

“The condition of Dublin fire stations was raised with reference to a newly upgraded station promised for North Strand 13 years ago – that still has not come on stream.” Concerns re the service of DFB ambulance members were also voiced.

At present, there are 965 personnel in DFB, but the agreed amount to safely cover the county is 1,050. SF stated while the Chief Fire Officer said he is down 30-35 personnel, he was not including 35 on special projects, 35 on bereavement leave, annual, sick or parental leave, along with approximately 30-35 annual retirements.

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien TD joined in praise of the hard work of the fire services, especially during the 22 months of the pandemic. He added that €61m has been allocated over the next five years for the upgrade and training of fire stations and fire fighters.

Thirty-six recruits will have completed their training and commence work in December 2021, he said, with more commencing their training in early 2022. The government is not opposing Deputy Donnelly’s motion, he noted, but he encouraged all parties representing fire fighters and members of DFB to re-enter negotiations and to consider a proposal made on November 17 last.

DFB union members claimed five fire trucks were off the road at Halloween 2021 – one of the busiest periods for DFB. They also noted that three proposed new stations for Balbriggan, North Strand and Adamstown, have as yet, no completion date. The station in Adamstown was promised when the housing scheme commenced construction nearly 20 years ago!

A spokesperson for Dublin City Council (DCC) stated:

“DFB manage the distribution of resources dynamically based on resource availability. At any given time, resources may be impacted from current staffing issues, unscheduled maintenance or ongoing emergency incidents. This overall resource management is under the direction of the Mobilisation Officer who manages day to day cover of resources in a dynamic environment.

“Significant time and effort have been committed to help find an agreement and DCC/DFB management remain available to engage with the Unions to address the outstanding issue of Emergency Service Controllers employment arrangements through the conciliation process as set out at the WRC.”

Deputy Donnelly again called on the government to intervene, and address the issues of staff shortages and lack of resources for DFB. “It’s time to support our communities and support our fire services,” he said.

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