THE DONEGAL Firefighters’ Association have spoken out about major concerns they have about cross border fire services after Brexit claiming Donegal County Council has no plan in place.
Speaking to the Donegal News, Chairperson Stephen McFadden, said the Council has a “let’s see what happens” approach when it comes to planning for Brexit in terms of the county’s fire services.
He said: “In relation to Brexit the fire service doesn’t seem to have any plans in place. No one in the fire service has addressed if we have a hard border will there be delays? No one seems to be able to answer. We need to be able to reassure people that there won’t be delays in response times and does that mean restructuring the service on this side of the border?”
Figures obtained through a Freedom of Information request to this newspaper reveals the number of times the Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS) attend call outs in Donegal is rising every year. Over the last three years NIFRS attended 230 separate emergency incidents in Donegal. In 2018 they attended 81 incidents in the county, an increase from 79 in 2017 and 70 incidents in 2016. Over this three year period the majority of call outs were in Lifford (49), followed by Raphoe (29), Muff (26), Bridgend (21), Newtown (22), and St Johnston (20).
Mr McFadden said people living in these areas should be concerned and is calling on local politicians to raise their fears with the Council.
“We are not getting an answer from Donegal County Council and we have brought it through the union SIPTU but have had no response. Donegal County Council, in relation to fire services, are reactive rather than proactive. It is a concern. I am surprised to find that no councillors have raised this issue. We will be raising it again and I think a councillor somewhere should be bringing it up. These are our residents, not Northern Ireland residents that will be affected. It is like they have their head in the sand and this is not going to happen. There has to be a plan afoot.”
NIFRS also had call outs over the three year period to Carrigans (13), Burt (12) Burnfoot (9), Buncrana (8), Castlefinn (3), Churchtown (2), Kildrum (1), Killea (7), Killygordon (2), and Pettigo (2). Mr McFadden said speed is of the essence in their line of work and they need to know there is a plan in place in the event there are any delays in the Northern Fire Service getting over the border in an emergency.
A Spokesperson for Donegal County Council said they are engaging with their colleagues from NIFRS through the Cross Border Fire Chiefs Forum on any potential impacts the UK exit from Europe might have on their existing cross-border arrangements.
“Collectively we are committed to the continuation of our long standing service level agreements with NIFRS with regard to service delivery, joint training and other areas of joint working. At this stage, we do not envisage any significant impact on current service delivery arrangements with NIFRS and any potential shared impacts are being discussed and planned for accordingly,” a Spokesperson for the Council said.
Similarly in a statement from the NIFRS, a spokesperson reaffirmed their commitment to the continuation of the agreement with Donegal as well as the Fire Services in Counties Louth, Monaghan, Cavan and Leitrim. They added that at this stage they “do not envisage any significant impact on our current service delivery arrangements with the Republic of Ireland and any potential shared impacts are being discussed and planned for accordingly, as part of our EU Exit planning.”
The formal agreement between the two fire authorities has been in place since 1965. Donegal County Council also pointed out that this agreement has worked successfully since its introduction, including throughout the years of conflict in the north and both before and after Ireland and the UK joined the EC (European Communities) in January 1973.