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Ferris - Fire Safety must be prioritised by the government

19 June, 2006

Sinn Féin TD Martin Ferris this morning repeated the party's call for a state-wide co-ordinating body for the 37 local fire authorities in the 26 Counties. He said 'It is clear that a lack of resources for Fire Brigades and a lack of planning is putting the lives of both fire fighters and the public at risk. Currently local authorities can not even determine what resources, finance and training is needed because of the lack of planning and risk assessment.'

Deputy Ferris said, "It is clear that without substantial changes, a disaster where our over-stretched Fire Service is unable to respond adequately, resulting in substantial, and unnecessary loss of life, is not merely likely, it is inevitable. Despite repeated promises the government has failed to implement necessary reform and this morning we hear that fire fighters have pulled out of government talks due to a lack of consultation. The government needs to stop prevaricating and ensure that the fire brigade service and its staff are fully supported so that we can have a service to meet our demands.

"Sinn Féin believes that there is an urgent need for a state-wide co-ordinating body for the 37 local fire authorities in the 26 Counties. At present there are differences in training, equipment, policy and methodology across the local fire authorities with approximately 220 fire stations in the 26 Counties. The lack of such a body perhaps also explains the lack of emphasis put by successive government on the fire services in contrast to that of the other emergency services.

"In the medium to long-term, Sinn Féin believes that there is a need to develop a single All-Ireland model ensuring the best possible service nationwide, and especially along the border areas, and obviously the development of North-South co-operation, already in practice to some extent, would be a fundamental feature of this body.

"It is important too that the fire service is consulted on a number of issues decided at local authority level and to ensure democratic accountability and provision should be made for local authorities to appoint representatives to an Advisory Board to allow for democratic input into the local fire authorities.

"Sinn Féin is calling for:

• The establishment and funding of a Strategic Fire Service Executive that would co-ordinate, administer and regulate the fire service in the 26 Counties in line with internationally recognised best practice.

• The establishment at a local level of Advisory Boards made up of community representatives and residents as well as elected representatives to allow for better communication and strategic planning with the local fire authority. This could be achieved in existing Council structures using the Strategic Policy Committees and this option should be considered.

• Preparation to commence for the development of an All-Ireland fire service under a single authority." ENDS

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