Government hopeful there will be no threat to festivals

Department of Defence to meet regulator next week for solution to Civil Defence issue

Food producers at the annual Dingle Food Festival, which could be affected by the Civil Defence issue. Photograph: Don MacMonagle

Food producers at the annual Dingle Food Festival, which could be affected by the Civil Defence issue. Photograph: Don MacMonagle

 

Talks will take place next between Department of Defence officials and the regulator for emergency medical services to head off a threat to Civil Defence operations that could affect 600 festivals this year.

The Civil Defence provides medical support services to festivals, but requires a licence from regulatory body the Pre-Hospital Emergency Care Council (PHECC) to do so.

The licence is due for renewal in July and its application usually includes assurances from the Department of Defence. However, legal advice given to the department has put that in jeopardy.

It has been told that some of the assurances and details required are not within its control or remit as responsibility lies with local authorities, said a spokeswoman.

Nevertheless, it is understood that the department is extremely keen to resolve the matter and is hopeful that a solution can be found during discussions early next week.

Four million visitors attend 600 festivals each year, according to the Association of Irish Festival Events, including the Durrow Scarecrow Festival in Laois and the Ballinasloe International Horse Fair in Galway.

Meeting next week

The County and City Management Association, which represents the local government management network, said it would also be meeting with PHECC next week.

The association has engaged with councils, Civil Defence and the Department of Defence and would be meeting shortly with the Pre-Hospital Emergency Care Council, said a spokesman.

Both the Order of Malta and St John Ambulance, which provide cover for sporting events, are unaffected by the current issue, since they are independent of the State. Their licences are fully up to date.

The Rose of Tralee International Festival, which said it had “an excellent long-standing association” with Civil Defence, expressed hope that extra private medical services would not have to be hired.

However, Anthea Atkinson, chairwoman of the Mary from Dungloe festival, said it no longer uses Civil Defence and so is unaffected by the current problems.

“If we keep our numbers below 1,000 we don’t need them. It won’t affect us, but I do feel sorry for those people who are relying on them,” she said.