Cork Civil Defence volunteer numbers drop from 354 to 301 in four years

They were praised for selfless acts during Storm Ophelia and during Storm Emma, but fears have been raised about the declining number of Civil Defence volunteers in Cork city and county.

Cork Civil Defence volunteer numbers drop from 354 to 301 in four years
  • In 2013, there were 354 Civil Defence volunteers, working in four divisions in the city and county. At the end of last year there were 301;
  • Five years ago, there were 107 Civil Defence members in West Cork, but that has fallen to 86;
  • In south Cork, the figure dropped from 56 to 44; in North Cork, from 89 to 76; and in Cork City, from 102 to 95.

The Department of Defence provides about 70% of annual funding for Civil Defence units.

The rest comes from local authorities, who run the units.

Sinn Féin councillor Eoghan Jeffers told Cork County Council that more needs to be done to bolster their numbers, especially in light of the “great work” they did during recent, adverse weather events.

Mr Jeffers won widespread support from colleagues when he asked that the council write to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, who is the senior Minister for Defence, to request that he support extra funding from the Department of Defence for Cork County Council’s annual budget.

He said that he is concerned that the country’s shift to Pesco (Permanent Structured Co-operation on security and defence) — the EU agreement on defence and security — will require a great spend on individuals and equipment, which could be to the detriment of the Civil Defence.

His party colleague, Des O’Grady, described the members of Civil Defence as “the poor relation of the emergency services”.

“To see that their numbers are falling away is sad and needs to be reversed,” he said. “We should be looking for increased funding for Civil Defence, rather than spending it on an EU army.”

Independent councillor Alan Coleman said the local authority needs to advertise that Civil Defence is part of its service to try encourage more people to join it.

“It’s worrying to see this decline,” he said.

Cork County Council officials said the council continuously monitors Civil Defence expenditure and, in the context of the response to recent storm events, “additional funding will be sought, as appropriate”.

Civil Defence units are also regularly brought in to help with searches and the council ensures they undergo regular training and upskilling programmes every year.

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