RETAINED FIREFIGHTERS FROM all over Ireland held a “demonstration of frustration” in Dublin City today to demand more time off, guaranteed wages, and further recruitment.
The National Retained Firefighters Association of Ireland says today’s protest was “borne out of the pure frustration felt at the lack of engagement by those in charge”.
Seamus O’Brien, a station manager in Mayo who was at today’s protest, told The Journal: “The cost of living crisis has put retained firefighters in a terrible position where many can’t afford to stay in the job.”
He added that “a lot of the staff are leaving ahead of time and it’s really hard to recruit.”
Meanwhile, Gary Lappin started as a retained firefighter when he was 18.
However, he said it is hard to retain people because “the conditions aren’t good”.
“We work a roster system in Monaghan,” Lappin said, “and we are lucky, we must be the only station in the country that does.
“Most of the retained fire fighters barely get any time off as they are on call and we just don’t have the staff.
“Family life goes out the window, I am a lone parent and when my child was younger and it was a nightmare.”
Adam Neary from Arklow in Co Wicklow told The Journal: “The people I work with are working two jobs and paying tax on both, it isn’t fair.
“We love the service and what we do but the stress that a lack of time off is causing is driving people out and there is no guaranteed money.
“I have two children and if my wife wants to go shopping or out with her friends, I have to have a backup babysitter in case I have to leave, I have to be available because we don’t have enough staff.”
Elsewhere, Liam Grant, a councillor in Co Clare, said he left the fire service recently because he “couldn’t juggle both jobs”.
“A lot of people do what I do, all the training and then realise the job isn’t doable,” said Grant.
He added: “We need more time off, guaranteed wages, and increase of staff. It’s hard for public service workers to strike at the moment but a strike is inevitable if nothing changes.”
Ciaran Fitzpatrick, a Co Cavan firefighter since 2015, attended the protest with his daughter Aoife.
Aoife told The Journal: “I have thought of going into the fire service myself but seeing how my dad has no time free for family life has put me off.”
Meanwhile, Sinn Féin’s TD John Brady has brought a motion to the Dáil to “tackle the ongoing crisis in the Retained Fire Service”.
He said the Retained Fire Service is “no longer fit for purpose” and noted a recent survey which revealed 60% of the Retained Fire Service intend to leave in the near future.
Deputy Brady said “no organisation can survive the loss of so many experienced personnel”.
Sinn Féin has called for the establishment of a Joint Oireachtas Cross-Party Committee to “conduct a full and independent review, and to bring forward a report containing key recommendations”.
Brady said: “Retained Fire Fighters have served notice of their intention to ballot for industrial action, with support for such action running at up to 97% in some areas.
“The core problems are recruitment and retention, which have left the service demoralised.
“The gross understaffing of the Retained Service is putting lives at risk, with experienced firefighters continuing to exit the service at an alarming and unsustainable rate.”
With additional reporting from Diarmuid Pepper