Civil Defence is an organisation of approximately 3,500 volunteers that supports the Principal Response Agencies, Government Departments and State agencies during emergency and non-emergency events. Its role is set out in the 2015 Government White Paper on Defence.
In 2018, a total of 2,795 operations were undertaken by Civil Defence.
Civil Defence has a proud tradition of assisting at community events across the country. Much of this activity involves the provision of emergency medical services. The Pre Hospital Emergency Care Council (PHECC) is the regulator for emergency medical services in Ireland and their role is to protect the public. The Pre Hospital Emergency Care Council require organisations that wish to be operational to apply to them for an annual licence to operate. Civil Defence is currently licenced by PHECC up to 30 July 2019.
In advance of the renewal process in November 2018, my officials reviewed the statutory declaration. That review identified that some assurances and details required as part of the licensing process are not within the control or remit of the Department of Defence as responsibility for Civil Defence operations rests with local authorities as set out in the 2015 Government White Paper on Defence.
There has been ongoing engagement on this issue between my officials, senior officials from the Pre Hospital Emergency Care Council (PHECC) and with representatives of the Local Authorities through the County and City Management Association (CCMA) since early this year.
The most recent engagement was on Wednesday 15 May 2019. At that meeting, there was continued positive engagement in line with the clear desire from all parties to resolve the issue, to ensure the emergency medical services provided by Civil Defence volunteers can continue. Further engagement will take place over the coming weeks.
I am committed to ensuring that the excellent service Civil Defence volunteers provide in terms of emergency medical services in emergency and non-emergency events continues beyond 30 July 2019 and I am confident all three parties can reach agreement, while recognising the unique structure of the Civil Defence organisation.