CORK has lost more than 50 Civil Defence volunteers in the last five years, despite national funding going up.
Figures released to Sinn Féin TD for Cork South Central, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire, showed that the drop in members follows a national trend, which has seen the State lose 931 Civil Defence volunteers between 2013 and 2017.
That’s despite the annual national funding from the Department of Defence being boosted from €4.24 million in 2015 to €5.24 million in 2016.
This fund is used alongside funding from local authorities to run the Civil Defence services in each area.
National funding for Cork County’s units went up from €120,694 in 2013 to €200,033 last year, but funding for the city dropped from €73,608 to €66,738 during the same period.
Cork city suffered a steep drop in members from 102 to 77 between 2013 and 2014 but had recovered to 95 by last year. Steep drops were seen across the three county divisions — Cork North, South, and West — with an overall drop of 45. The total drop in Cork was 52.
The Cork Civil Defence groups have got additional funding of €51,781 in the city and €324,811 in the county since 2013 to purchase new equipment.
The number of Civil Defence vehicles in Cork has risen from nine to 12 in the city and from 27 to 33 in the county.
Mr Ó Laoghaire said that Minister for Defence Paul Kehoe needs to convene a meeting of the heads of the local Civil Defence units, get feedback on Storm Emma, and look at what is causing the drop off in volunteers.
He said that he needs to examine whether members are getting the support, respect, responsibility, and autonomy needed to retain current volunteers and recruit more.
“The Civil Defence played an extraordinary role during the recent bad weather. They were involved in transporting frontline staff, clearing roads, delivering food to people who needed it and freeing emergency vehicles stuck in the roads.
“It’s a voluntary organisation so it’s very cost effective. It makes sense to support it,” he said.
He said the Civil Defence would be needed more than ever in the coming decades as climate change makes extreme weather events more common.