Fire brigade protests over ambulance plan

Marchers told city manager ‘suspended’ review of service on foot of their campaign

Crew at Dublin City Hall for the Dublin Fire Brigade Ambulance Service protest from Tara Street fire station. Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne

Crew at Dublin City Hall for the Dublin Fire Brigade Ambulance Service protest from Tara Street fire station. Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne

 

Dublin city manager Owen Keegan has suspended a review of emergency ambulance services in the city, a demonstration of up to 500 members of Dublin Fire Brigade was told last night.

Patricia King, vice-president of Siptu, addressed a demonstration called by the Siptu and Impact unions in support of the brigade’s retention of its ambulance service in the capital. The demonstration came on foot of a joint review of Dublin’s ambulance services, announced last month, which many saw as a precursor to the service being removed from the brigade.

Fears were heightened when it later emerged in The Irish Times that the Health Service Executive had last year drawn up a comprehensive plan to take control of the ambulance service away from DFB. The plan said Dublin’s ambulance service “should now be provided directly by the HSE” and the plan should be fully implemented “by the end of 2015”.

It spurred an immediate campaign by the Siptu and Impact unions to defend the DFB ambulance service, cross-party political reaction against the HSE plan and the creation of a “Save Dublin’s ambulance service” page on Facebook, which attracted more than 2,700 members within three days.

Support
Yesterday saw hundreds of paramedic-firefighters from across the city gathered at the main DFB station on Tara Street from about 4.30pm, before moving off in brigade formation, led by the Dublin Fire Brigade band. They marched to City Hall, before the monthly council meeting was to take place, and were addressed by councillors from all political parties who declared their support for retention of the service.

Ms King said that “on foot of the extraordinary campaign” by DFB workers Siptu had been contacted by Mr Keegan yesterday. “He said he will suspend the review until such time as the [HSE’s] National Ambulance Service capacity review is complete. That, colleagues, is no doubt on foot of listening to yourselves and listening to the message you have given loudly.”

The HSE ambulance capacity review is under way with no estimated completion date. Ms King’s announcement was greeted with cheering and applause. She warned, however, that this was “only part of the battle” and said there was “no doubt Dublin Fire Brigade is under threat”. There was currently a management in place in the council, she said, which wanted to divest it of any services it was not legally obliged to provide.

Cllr Gerry Breen of Fine Gael pledged his party’s support for the ambulance service, saying: “Not on our watch is this service going to be interfered with.” Labour Cllr Dermot Lacey said his party “100 per cent supports DFB and will be with you all the way”.