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Firefighters march over proposed number cuts

Ireland’s firefighters marched along Dublin’s busiest streets as part of a protest against potential reductions in crewing numbers.

SIPTU firefighters protest. Credit: Emma Mulholland

SIPTU firefighters protest. Credit: Emma Mulholland

The march was organised by SIPTU – which represents 3,000 fire service members nationwide – and took place on Tuesday the 24th of February, with over 300 fire service personnel participating.

The march began on Parnell street at 12:00 pm and concluded with a rally outside Dáil Éireann.

The Department of the Environment want to reduce the number of people who attend certain fires as part of the Keeping Communities Safe Plan.

However, SIPTU organiser Brendan O’Brien explained how reducing the number of fire fighters in response crews would affect both emergency services members as well as the general public.

Speaking at the rally outside Dáil Eireann, he said: “If they [the government] implement these crewing reductions, there’s a strong likelihood that industrial action will follow.”

“The department has sent us back various responses to date which don’t answer the fundamental questions we have,” Mr. O’ Brien added.

The revisions to the fire service were originally set out in a departmental document entitled ‘Keeping Communities Safe’, published in 2013, which says how emergency services crew numbers could be cut by up to 33 per cent.

The chair of SIPTU’s retained firefighters national committee Ciaran Scall explained what cuts in crew members would mean for them.

“At the moment, if your house is on fire and – God forbid – there were people inside, we would go into the building because we know that if something goes wrong there are two firefighters outside that can go in and pull them out”, he explained.

“If the cuts are brought in there would only be one firefighter and there’s no way he could pull out two firefighters”, he continued.

Cork firefighter Noel Healy emphasised how the march was not for pay increases like most organisation protests, but for the safety of the emergency services and the general public.

“For once, this dispute is nothing to do with pay or pay increases. This is about health and safety.”

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