Wicklow Sinn Féin TD John Brady has expressed his disappointment at the failure of Minister Darragh O’Brien to take action to address the recruitment and retention crisis within the Retained Fire Service. This failure has forced members of the Retained Fire Service across the state into a position where they voted in favour of industrial and strike action. Members of the Retained Fire Service voted on average by more than 90% in favour of further action. In Wicklow members voted 90% in favour of strike action, and 99% in favour of industrial action.
Brady said: “The situation in which members of the Retained Fire Service find themselves as a result of the long running crisis with recruitment and retention, continues to pose health and safety risks to both fire fighters and members of the public, as a consequence of the failure of the government to act.
In November I brought a motion before the Dáil with the full support of the Retained Fire Fighters, that would have led to the establishment of an all-party Committee, that would have heard evidence from key stake holders and expert witnesses, before bringing forward a report to the government.
The government, including their three TDs in Wicklow voted against the motion. At the time the Minister went to great lengths to offer assurances that he and his department had everything in hand, and were working to resolve the situation.
Now we have a situation where the Retained Fire Fighters feel that they have no option but to pursue industrial and/or strike action to ensure the safety of themselves and the public.
There are close to 2000 members of the Retained Fire Service across the state. In 200 fire stations. They are rooted in the communities in which they serve, with courage, professionalism and distinction.
Due to the recruitment and retention crisis, brought about due to the commitments required by members, which restrict their movements to within a short distance of the fire station, their long hours for poor reward. And the associated stresses that come with the job, it is increasingly difficult to find recruits to fill the positions of veteran fire fighters who are unable or unwilling to continue in the role due to the failure of the government.
Representatives of the Retained Fire Service are scheduled to meet with government and local authority representatives on the 27 January for talks.I urge the Minister to act immediately to take action to remove the need for the Retained Fire Fighters to take further action. The responsibility clearly lies with the government. If he fails to act, the sustainability of the Retained Fire Service will become endangered, and Retained Fire Fighters will have no option but to take further action.”