THE IRISH FIRE and Emergency Services Association has warned that improvements made since the Stardust tragedy could be negated by further cuts and lessening resources.
On the 31st anniversary of the nightclub fire which killed 48 people and injured another 214 in Dublin, the IFESA said the fire services in Ireland are yet to reach their full potential and lives are at risk as a result.
It claims that three Government reports commissioned about the fire service over the past 40 years highlight improvements that are needed but that have never been implemented. The association said its warnings have been ignored but that reforms must begin immediately.
Throughout the Dublin Fire Brigade alone, there are 250 positions vacant that cannot be filled because of financial shortfalls. The Stardust Tribunal also recommended an increase in the number of fire prevention officers but there are still fewer than advised. In Dublin, there are only four such positions filled to cover a population of 1.5 million.
There is a systematic failure in the processes that are in place – from fire prevention to the provision of fire cover,” said the IFSEA. “These deficiencies will cost the lives of citizens of this country and also to firefighters that are duty bound to protect them.”
The current system was put into place when Ireland was a very different country – largely agricultural with relatively small numbers living in towns and cities. The group said the problems at Priory Hall have highlighted the issue but added this this is just the “tip of the iceberg”.
We need to end a situation where the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, have all of the power without any of the responsibility. They can effectively walk away from any disaster and lay the blame at the doors of the Local Authority.
The IFESA also took the opportunity to express its sympathy to the bereaved families of the Stardust victims.
Unfortunately 31 years on, the community of North Dublin are still suffering and hurting from this tragedy and the Irish Fire Service has yet to reach its full potential.
Firefighters remember Stardust and pray we will learn and never let it happen again.”