‘Not good enough to see it idle’: Calls for Cork City Council to reopen Ballincollig fire station

Cork city councillors voted to suspend standing orders at last night’s full council meeting to discuss a motion regarding the current pressures the city’s Fire Service is under.
‘Not good enough to see it idle’: Calls for Cork City Council to reopen Ballincollig fire station

Sinn Féin councillors proposed a motion at last night's council meeting to call upon the council Executive “to explore every possible option to reopen and staff Ballincollig Fire Station in the interim from existing staff to ensure safety and adequate cover is available across the city and beyond”. Picture: Denis Minihane.

Cork city councillors voted to suspend standing orders at last night’s full council meeting to discuss a motion regarding the current pressures the city’s Fire Service is under.

The motion, tabled by Sinn Féin councillors, called on Cork City Council to acknowledge that Ballincollig Fire Station has been closed for several months and that this closure means a reduction of operational pumps in the city area from four to three, representing a 25% reduction in capacity ahead of the summer season which will see an uptick in sporting, musical and cultural events likely combined with drier weather.

It proposed that councillors would acknowledge and commend the ongoing efforts to recruit a retained fire service in Ballincollig and “without prejudice to this process” would call upon the council Executive “to explore every possible option to reopen and staff Ballincollig Fire Station in the interim from existing staff to ensure safety and adequate cover is available across the city and beyond”.

“It's clear that Ballincollig Fire Station needs to be operational to ensure the entire city and surrounding areas have adequate protection,” Cllr Eolan Ryng said, speaking to The Echo ahead of the meeting.

“We've seen an increase in fires of late in various areas around the city stretching our Fire Service.

“We are heading towards the drier summer season which will also bring thousands of visitors to the city with the welcome return of sporting, cultural and musical events.

“We need to ensure that we as a city provide the necessary level of protection,” he said.

“I acknowledge the welcome efforts of the Executive to recruit a retained fire service for the Ballincollig station that has been ongoing for several months. Everyone hopes for a successful outcome to this process.

“In the interim, however, it's not good enough to see the Fire Station lying idle when it could be manned from existing staff, giving the entire city and surrounding areas the levels of protection required.

“We're calling on the Executive to do everything in its power to ensure that this happens,” he continued.

The motion comes as firefighters in Cork city last month voted overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action.

A total of 96% of the votes were in favour of industrial action, up to but not including strike action with 80% voting in favour of industrial action, up to and including strike action.

“As it stands now, we’re only proposing to take industrial action which is essentially a work-to-rule,” Billy Crowley, firefighter and union representative with Cork City Fire Brigade, told The Echo.

Mr Crowley said this action will primarily affect administrative duties and processes.

He said that commencing on Friday morning, for five minutes during their shift change, firefighters will also picket.

Mr Crowley said the action is being taken amid the ongoing dispute in relation to Ballincollig fire station.

Following the boundary extension that saw Ballincollig become part of the city, the local fire station was operated by retained firefighters.

However, in 2020 there was a recruitment drive for full-time positions within the city’s service; several of Ballincollig’s retained firefighters were hired and were moved to the other city stations.

This left a deficit of staff at the station, which ultimately led to the closure of the station.

“What City Hall are saying is it’s temporarily off the run but there’s no one out there so it’s not off the run, it’s closed,” Mr Crowley said.

“At the moment we have 27 firefighters on each watch. For Anglesea St and Ballyvollane we need to have a minimum of 19 firefighters on duty at any one time. So that leaves you with eight.

“What we’d do normally is we’d assign those guys to spare trucks, some of them might be on holidays, some might be on training courses… what we’re saying is put a truck out in Ballincollig and assign them there,” he explained.

“That was in actually place until the morning after the budget [city council’s budget] was signed and then they came in and said we’re pulling that.

“We’re not in a position to do that anymore because the budget isn’t there for it,” he continued.

Mr Crowley said there is a “national recruitment and retention crisis” in the retained fire service.

“The money is poor, the conditions are poor and then the fact that you have to be living within two miles of the station and available 24/7 is unacceptable.” 

At last night’s council meeting, the Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr Colm Kelleher informed councillors that the matter is currently before the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).

He said he has spoken to Cork City Council’s Chief Executive and the Director of Services regarding Ballincollig’s Fire Station and has requested that a full report would be compiled as to the current situation which would be presented to councillors.

The CE of Cork City Council Ann Doherty said the city has a “very functioning and safe Cork City Fire Service”- the performance of which is “monitored every day”.

She said it is “regrettable” that staff feel they have to resort to industrial action.

“The only way to resolve problems is to involve in processes and to have conversations but conversations require everybody to compromise,” she added.

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