The provision of a fire service in its functional area, including the establishment and maintenance of a fire brigade, the assessment of fire cover needs and the provision of fire station premises, is a statutory function of individual fire authorities under the Fire Services Act, 1981. My Department supports fire authorities through setting general policy and progressing legislation, providing a central training programme, issuing guidance on operational and other related matters and providing capital funding support for equipment and priority infrastructural projects.
In February 2016, my Department announced a five-year Fire Services Capital Programme with an allocation of €40 million, based on an annual €8 million allocation, to be used for the purchase of fire appliances and specialist equipment, the building or upgrading of priority Fire Stations, an upgrade of the Communications and Mobilisation system and improvements to Training Centres. The five-year programme proposed the construction or refurbishment of twenty-six fire stations. This included sixteen new builds and ten upgrade or refurbishment projects.
The Fire Services Capital Programme forms an important part of my Department’s strategy to support fire authorities in the development and maintenance of a quality fire-fighting and rescue service. The prioritisation and effective management of these resources is, in the first instance, a matter for each of the fire authorities based on their assessment of local needs and requirements. My Department works closely with fire services around the country to progress priority projects.
In order to maximise the Capital Programme funding available, my Department re-assesses the status of projects in the capital programme on an annual basis and priority can be adjusted to bring forward more advanced projects offering best value-for-money taking account of the state of readiness of projects in the programme more generally.
I understand there was an historic project application in relation to the fire station in Rathdowney that didn't eventually progress as proposed and that in 2017, Laois County Council put in place an extension on to Rathdowney Fire Station, consisting of separate male and female toilets, a shower cubicle and a new muster bay. While a fire station project for Rathdowney is not included in the current five-year programme referred to above, both Rathdowney and Stradbally are on the list for inclusion in annual reviews. My Department will have regard to Laois County Council’s priorities and the totality of requests from fire authorities countrywide for funding in considering any proposal.