Ballyshannon fire station.
There has been a call for protests at tomorrow's annual general meeting of Donegal County Council in Lifford over the proposed closure of Ballyshannon’s fire station.
There is anger in south Donegal at the recommendation from Donegal County Council for the Ballyshannon station to be closed in favour of a new station to be built on the northern side of Bundoran.
There was a call yesterday for chief fire officer Joseph McTaggart to resign after he met councillors on Tuesday and told them he was recommending the closure of the station in favour of a new one close to Bundoran.
The meeting was held after the completion of a report by consultants into the issue of the fire stations in Bundoran and Ballyshannon.
The report has proposed three options - two stations with one appliance at each, one station with one pump, and one station with two pumps. The consultants, OHR, recommended the retention of two pumps, either at two stations or one merged location.
In the long-awaited report, the consultants said the fire service would need to “apply professional judgement to take account of additional factors outside the scope” of the review.
A social media campaign to save the station was launched on Tuesday after a meeting between the chief fire officer and fire crews from both stations. Over 2,000 people had signed an online petition by yesterday afternoon.
Donegal County Council confirmed that it has “recommended the establishment of a single station location for the provision of fire services in south Donegal and covering the Ballyshannon and Bundoran areas”.
“It is proposed that a new purpose-built fire station would be built to the east of Bundoran to facilitate a joint Ballyshannon and Bundoran Fire Service,” the council said in a statement issued yesterday.
Abandoning a policy
The decision has been attacked by local councillor Barry O'Neill who described the council’s management as “a complete and utter embarrassment”.
He called for a protest at today’s meeting when a new cathaoirleach is to be elected and said there will be disruption of the meeting’s business if a debate was not allowed on the issue.
The Ballyshannon councillor criticised the report as “a crutch” which allowed the council to close the Ballyshannon station.
The Fine Gael councillor said the council was abandoning a policy it has held over years which was for the construction of two new stations, one in each town.
He accused the council of “picking on Ballyshannon and Bundoran”.
“We need the management of the council to apologise to the people of Ballyshannon and Bundoran. This is an attack on a part of the county that does not need an attack. It needs help. This proves they don’t care about Ballyshannon and Bundoran. If they think the meeting will go ahead tomorrow (Thursday) without an apology and without a withdrawal, they can think again.
“I am calling for a protest and I am asking the chief fire officer to consider his position as this county has never closed a fire station."
Dangerous and unsafe
TD for the area Marc Mac Sharry labelled the proposal as ‘dangerous and unsafe’.
“It is clear to see that be it penny-pinching by Donegal County Council on the back of inadequate resources from central government or the blind judgement of a firm of consultants based in another jurisdiction, this decision is a retrograde step and will undermine the ability of the south Donegal area to be adequately prepared for potential disaster,” he said.
“Indeed, the proposed closure of Ballyshannon Fire Station has also cross-border implications given that it is the only fire station in the south which provides cover to the North at Belleek. As things stand, Ballyshannon Fire Station provides critical services from Finner, through Ballyshannon, to Cloghore, Belleek, Rossnowlagh, Cashelard and on towards Pettigo while Bundoran on the other side covers into Leitrim and Sligo. If tragedy were to strike at either end of the catchment the other would be left exposed and in danger if this reckless and ill thought out proposal is allowed to proceed.”
In its statement, the council said: “This recommendation follows a period of detailed discussion between management and staff from Donegal Fire Service and the subsequent preparation of an independent, evidence-led review of the fire service currently being provided in the area.
“This would involve the construction of a new fire station at Bundoran, near to the Finner Roundabout. The new station would be a two-pump, three-bay station that would house two pumping appliances, an aerial appliance, and two 4x4 jeeps. The new fire brigade would have a crew complement of 15, similar to that currently serving Letterkenny.
“Both Ballyshannon and Bundoran Fire Stations are in need of replacement as both stations have gone beyond their intended service life. Both stations are limited in terms of basic requirements such as vehicular shelter, training yard facilities, and staff welfare facilities. In addition, there is no scope on either site to refurbish the existing stations to modern-day standards. The recommendation would ensure a long-term, resilient service for the people of Ballyshannon and Bundoran and the wider population across south Donegal.”