Hundreds of festivals can proceed as medical licensing resolved

Application for licence paves way for Civil Defence to provide medical services at events

Hundreds of festivals at risk of cancellation due to issues with the licensing of vital medical services are to go ahead following an application from the Department of Defence for a licence.

Minister of State for defence Paul Kehoe will announce on Wednesday that his department has submitted an application to the statutory agency the Pre-Hospital Emergency Care Council to renew the recognition of the Civil Defence as a pre-hospital emergency care service provider.

This allows the Civil Defence to continue to provide emergency medical services at public events. The current licence was due to expire at the end of November 2018. This was then extended to July 30th, 2019, and subsequently again to August 31st, 2019.

Concerns were raised earlier this summer that the Civil Defence’s emergency medical operations did not have a new licence in place from the agency.


Festivals and other events rely on Civil Defence members to provide first aid.

There have been a number of high-profile medical emergencies at festivals recently. In early August Jack Downey (19), from Clonmel, died from a suspected drug overdose at the Indiependance festival in north Cork.

The delay with the new licence was the result of legal advice given to the department that focused on the fact that while the department gave assurances to the agency as part of the licence application process, the Civil Defence does not involve department employees and reports to local authorities around the State.

Volunteers ‘anxious’

The responsibility for day-to-day Civil Defence operations rests with local authorities, as set out in the 2015 government white paper on defence.

Following what has been described as “constructive engagement” between the department and the County and City Management Association on behalf of local authorities, it was agreed that local authorities would provide certain assurances needed for the licence, with the remainder being provided by the Department of Defence.

The new licence will run up to the August 31st, 2020.

Mr Kehoe said the “management and Civil Defence personnel representing local authorities have a crucial role to play in terms of civil defence”.

“I am very conscious that Civil Defence volunteers have been anxious about this issue and I would like to thank them for their patience. I wish to assure them that with the licence issue now resolved, the organisation can continue to deliver the professional level of emergency medical service that it is renowned for”.

The Association of Irish Festivals and Events previously said that if the Civil Defence was not able to provide such a service, then festival organisers would have to pay for professional cover in order to get insurance.

There were fears that many would not be in a position to afford this and such events would not be able to go ahead.

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times