The people of Connemara are fearful of being fobbed off when it comes to the provision of a new fire station for the area.
That’s according to Councillor Seán Ó Tuairisg, who says the chances of securing a badly needed second station in the area could be damaged by a new national policy document due for release in 2013.
Galway County Council had established a review group to examine the issue of fire cover in Connemara, but the process was interrupted late in 2011 when the National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management at the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government commenced work on the national policy document, to be called ‘Keeping Communities Safe’.
The Galway County Council review group is expected to reconvene when the ‘Keeping Communities Safe’ document is released in early 2013 and will be informed by the report in its policy.
However, Connemara area Councillor Ó Tuairisg says there is a risk that Connemara will be denied a badly-needed station in the south of the region if the policy decides to focus on call-out numbers as a decisive factor.
There are currently ten fire stations in County Galway, three of which are in the west of the County, in Galway City, Clifden and Inis Mór.
According to Fianna Fáil Cllr Ó Tuairisg, there is a danger that a national policy might overlook factors unique to Connemara such as the sparse road network and the risk of bog sedge fires.
“On account of the mountains and the lakes and the bays you have a very sparse road network in Connemara,” said Cllr Ó Tuairisg, noting that, while a journey from Lettermore to Kilkieran might only be three or four miles as the crow flies, by road it is closer to 25 miles.
“It looks convenient but you haven’t the road network there. They’d need to look at the whole picture, the road network and the response time in particular,” he added.
Cllr Ó Tuairisg said the idea of a second fire station for Connemara had been approved “in principle” in 2004, but now the people had run out of patience.
“It’s a long time people have been waiting since and hoping. There doesn’t seem to be any light at the tunnel,” he said.
“There’s a lot of fear because of the fact that there’s no fire station there,” he added.
A report on the update was circulated to councillors at Galway County Council’s budget meeting. Director of Services for Corporate, Housing and Emergency Services Eugene Cummins said that, following the release of the ‘Keeping Communities Safe’ policy document, the Fire Authority would “determine the priority needs in the county/city and apply the available resources in the most effective configuration”.
“We do realise that the [council] members from Connemara are anxious to deal with this and we will deal with this, but it has to be within the context of the national policy document,” added Mr Cummins.
However, Connemara Councillors were critical of the dispersal of stations throughout the county, pointing out that the seven stations in east Galway were much more evenly distributed.
“There are areas in east Galway where you could have three or four fire engines on the scene; try that in Connemara,” commented Cllr Seosamh Ó Cuaig.