Politicians and trade union officials have warned public safety could be in jeopardy after meeting with fire & rescue union representatives over cuts to services in Derry.
The matter is due to be raised at a council meeting later today after Derry Trades Union Council (DTUC) wrote to the local authority urging it to review staffing levels and availability of specialist equipment to respond to emergencies, as a matter of public safety.
The Fire Brigade’s Union has warned over recent days that changes to staffing levels could in Derry put the public at risk.
Local Sinn Fein, SDLP and DUP representatives meanwhile have vowed to seek meetings with the permanent secretary at the Department for Health after they held separate meetings with Fire Brigade Union officials yesterday.
Sinn Féin MP Elisha McCallion said: “As a result of a shortfall in the budget, union representatives told us that these cuts are already being felt with the withdrawal of primary crews for aerial appliances at Northland Road and Crescent Link fire stations in Derry. The loss of this vital service could put the lives of the public and members of the Fire and Rescue Service at risk.”
SDLP Foyle MLA Mark H Durkan said that the cuts show a lack of understanding and appreciation of the dangers faced by firefighters. He said: “The removal of a support crew for the aerial appliance based at Northland Road could have devastating consequences.
“We have seen the recent catastrophe at Grenfell and, a few years ago, disaster being averted by firefighters when there was a fire at Altnagelvin hospital.”
DUP Foyle MLA Gary Middleton and Alderman Drew Thompson also met with NIFRS union representatives, after which a spokesperson for the DUP said: “At a time when our city and district is expanding with more homes being built, the hospital being expanded and growing developments, the Fire Service in the West should be increasing its crews not reducing.”
People Before Profit representative Shaun Harkin meanwhile said of the £2m programme of cuts being imposed: “The Grenfell Tower fire in London, the large-scale fire at the Mandarin Palace and the recent North West floods all put emergency services to the test. The planned cuts are more likely to make unnecessary tragedies in situations like these inevitable.”
In its letter to the local council, DTUC vowed that they will be “campaigning and lobbying as a matter of urgency to highlight these issues and we will fully support our colleagues in the NI Fire Service”.
A Derry & Strabane Council spokesperson said the DTUC correspondence will be raised at today’s Governance and Strategic Planning Committee “for discussion and consideration by members”.