'Paperwork doesn’t pull people out of rivers, firefighters do': Council to raise issue of frontline staff numbers with Taoiseach

Cork County Councillor Michael Paul Murtagh said that he has been contacted by people all over the country who are worried about staffing levels
'Paperwork doesn’t pull people out of rivers, firefighters do': Council to raise issue of frontline staff numbers with Taoiseach

Mr Murtagh said that he believes the Government’s moratorium on recruitment, which was introduced as a control measure following the economic crisis in 2009, has left lasting consequences on frontline services. Picture: Clare Keogh.

CORK County Council has voted to raise the issue of frontline staff numbers with the Taoiseach.

The issue was raised to the council by Fine Gael councillor Michael Paul Murtagh, who is a firefighter with Cork City Fire Brigade.

“The problems are mounting. I’ve been involved in meetings where we’ve discussed the lack of Gardaí on the ground, patients waiting over two hours for ambulances in West Cork, issues around recruitment and retention in the retained fire service, and it’s been well reported that naval ships have been tied up in Haulbowline, unable to go to sea to patrol because of lack of numbers,” Mr Murtagh said.

“I’ve been contacted over recent weeks by people in Kerry, Limerick, and Galway. This is not just about Cork; it really is a problem around the country. Staffing levels must match the growth in our population.” 

Mr Murtagh said that he believes the Government’s moratorium on recruitment in the public service, which was introduced as a control measure following the economic crisis in 2009 and ended in 2015, has left lasting consequences on frontline services.

“I’m in no doubt that the moratorium on recruitment and the policies that were enacted in the wake of that decision has damaged frontline services,” Mr Murtagh said.

“Paperwork doesn’t pull people out of rivers, nor does it cut patients out of crumbled vehicles; firefighters do. Statistics and percentages don't treat seriously wounded individuals; paramedics do.” 

Deputy Mayor for the County of Cork, Cllr Cathal Rasmussen, backed Mr Murtagh’s request that the council write to the Taoiseach and suggested that the letter also ask that conditions and pay in certain sectors be looked at.

“Living in Cobh, I see Navy ships tied up more often than they’re out and I know the numbers are down in the Army. You talk to people in the service and their wages are so poor,” Mr Rasmussen said.

West Cork councillor Danny Collins said that he was particularly concerned about staffing issues amongst paramedics.

“We don’t realise how much we rely on our frontline workers until we need them,” said Mr Collins.

“It could be hours in some cases before an ambulance arrives for some people in Cork and that’s not good enough. Our paramedics are stretched to the very limit.” 

Councillor Susan McCarthy added: “This is something that came up at people’s doors for me during the last election. Numbers have become a huge issue, especially within the Gardaí and the Gardaí on the ground will tell you that.”

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