How a retired principal and a small group of frontline workers created a national event

The national emergency services parade and open day has grown in size and popularity – these are the people behind it.

FOR THE LAST three years, a group of emergency service workers brought together by a retired school principal, has managed, with very few resources, to pull off a day of events to celebrate the important work of their organisations.

The Frontline Emergency and Security Services Eire Forum‘s (Fessef) main event is a parade of hundreds of emergency service personnel – and their vehicles - through Dublin’s city centre. An open day in Trinity College, with displays, demonstrations and activities like fingerprinting follows the parade and in the evening there is a gala dinner.

Seamus O’Neill, former principal of Scoil Treasa Naofa in Dublin’s Inchicore, established Fessef in 2013.

“We’d had no money in the school and the army and the guards used to play football matches to fundraise for us. They were a great support,” he told

“So in 2013 I was looking around and there was nothing in the State that recognised the work that the emergency and security services were doing. I thought this would be one way of giving recognition to these individuals for the work they were doing.”

O’Neill convinced some frontline contacts he already had to get involved and also contacted the heads of a number of organisations to ask if they would put forward a representative for the board. The fourth Fessef national emergency services day will take place on 9 September this year.


Owen Medland, who works for the RNLI, has been on the board since the inception of Fessef said it was a “massively challenging” task the first year of the parade as they were starting from scratch.

“It was because of the skillset and drive of the individuals that came together at the beginning that we got it done,” he said.

He sees the Fessef day as a platform for raising the profile of the RNLI and telling the public about what its volunteers do every day.

Tragedy is a big part of the job for these organisations and many have lost colleagues in recent years. The theme of last year’s gala dinner was ‘remembrance’ and tributes were paid, in particular, to Caitríona Lucas, the Coast Guard crew member who died during an operation in Kilkee.

The Fessef national emergency services day gives members of the public a chance to express their appreciation to the employees and volunteers in these organisations for their work.

“If you look at the response to what happened in London [with the Grenfell tower fire], when something like that happens – and you always hope it won’t – that’s usually when people say ‘thanks very much’,” Turlough Dooley, crew commander at Dublin Airport’s fire service told

“The open day gives people a chance to say ‘thanks for just being there’. It’s also a great opportunity for anyone who’s interested in getting into the job to talk to someone who’s doing it.”

Fessef Fessef


Martin Dunne, director of the National Ambulance Service, said the organisation became involved with Fessef from the beginning as it supports anything that seeks to recognise the work of its staff.

“It can be quite a challenging job so we wanted to support that concept of recognition,” he said. “It’s been very positive for everyone and it allows people who might be patients at some stage to meet the people who are providing the services and have a chat in a more relaxed atmosphere.”

That breaks down barriers and also gives a level of confidence for members of the public in the people they will be dealing with in a time of need.

Fessef Fessef

He said the first year of the event was “done on a very goodwill basis” but it has grown significantly over the three years.

Dunne credited the organising committee with this success, as they dedicate a lot of their own free time to making sure everything runs smoothly.

This committee has taken on an extra challenge this year, as they are also organising a concert in the Pro-Cathedral on 8 September, the evening before the parade.

There will be performances from RTÉ’s philharmonic choir and some of the emergency services choirs and bands, including the popular Garda Band. Tickets are €35 and the money collected will go to a number of charities that work with Fessef.

Owen Medland said none of this would have been possible without the support of its two main sponsors Dublin City Council and sporting equipment company Helly Hansen. Advertising in the Fessef brochure and ticket sales for its yearly gala also help, but he said the board is hoping to bring a title sponsor on board to ensure a stable future for this event.

“We wouldn’t have managed at all without the support we’ve received so far, but it would be great to build a relationship with a sponsor going forward,” he said.

Fessef is encouraging members of the public to join them on 9 September in celebrating and supporting the country’s emergency services.

Read: ‘We come together in the most distressing situations’: Hundreds to take part in emergency services parade>


Your Voice
Readers Comments
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.