Fire officers claim failure to modernise has hit morale

The failure to modernise the Irish fire service has undermined the morale of fire officers, it was claimed tonight.

The failure to modernise the Irish fire service has undermined the morale of fire officers, it was claimed tonight.

The Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) said it was disappointed that Environment Minister Dick Roche had abandoned the plans of his predecessor Martin Cullen to set up a National Fire Authority.

“The delay in moving the change process forward has undermined the morale of our senior officers to an alarming degree,” said chairman Tony Gleeson.

At the annual conference of the CFOA in Cavan, he said Mr Cullen had been moved in the cabinet reshuffle before any progress could be made.

“The plan, which was announced as official policy last May, was dead within a few months,” he said.

Although he welcomed Mr Roche’s plans to set up four steering groups to drive change in the fire service, Mr Gleeson said there were no defined targets for reducing fire deaths and no reference to the funding needed to modernise the fire service.

“We must express our concern that this change programme does not address the most fundamental weaknesses in the fire safety regime,” he said.

The National Fire Authority was intended to have full responsibility to set national standards for the 3,000 full and part-time fire fighters across 37 fire authority areas.

It would develop standard response times for brigades, co-ordinate emergency planning and implement new technology.

Its establishment of the national fire authority was the key recommendation in the Farrell Grants Sparks (FGS) report in 2002, the biggest review of the fire service for 25 years.

However, Minister of State Batt O’Keefe said the working groups set up under the Fire Services Change Programme had to lead to a safer society.

“This involves a shift in focus from the traditional response role of the service to protecting people through prevention and mitigation,” he said.

The groups will focus on developing fire response times, community fire safety, and training and health and safety programmes for firefighters.

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