I intend to bring forward legislation to amend the existing Fire Services Acts 1981 and 2003 next year to
a) update the Fire Services Acts, 1981 and 2003,
b) place relevant elements of emergency management practice at national and local level on a statutory footing, and,
c) revise the legislative approach to certain aspects of funfair public safety in Ireland.
The Bill will represent the culmination of a significant body of work carried out in my Department over a number of areas during the past number of years. The legislation is being informed by three main areas of work and I expect that progress under each will facilitate publication of the Bill in Quarter 1 2020.
On 27 June 2017, following the fire in London’s Grenfell Tower, I tasked my Department’s National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management (NDFEM) with convening and coordinating a high-level Task Force to lead a re-appraisal of fire safety in Ireland. Its Report was submitted to me in May 2018, entitled “Fire Safety in Ireland: Report of the Fire Safety Task Force”. It contains conclusions on the state of fire safety in Ireland and recommendations for moving forward.
The Task Force report makes a range of recommendations for improvements to fire safety in buildings, and to provision of fire services in Ireland. In response to the recommendations, the NDFEM Board has brought forward a number of initiatives, including proposals for regulatory provisions and guidance for ensuring fire safety in buildings, and for fire services.
The proposed legislation will ensure that these changes can be made as expeditiously as possible. The legislation will also allow for the updating of the legislation that underpins the excellent work being carried out by Irish Fire Service. It will help ensure that we can continue to deliver a modernised Fire and Rescue Service responsive to the particular demands of modern society.
The Report of the first phase of the Grenfell Tower fire was published on October 30th 2019. My Department has taken the lead in co-ordinating the analysis of the Report in an Irish context. Consideration is ongoing and will feed into the proposed legislation should it be deemed necessary and appropriate.
In relation to Emergency Management, the Deputy will be aware that my Department is the lead Government Department for response to Severe Weather and Flooding emergency scenarios. I recently brought a comprehensive report to Government - “A Review Report on Severe Weather Events" - which reported on the response to severe weather events for the period from August 2017 to August 2018, including ex-Hurricane Ophelia (October 2017) and storm Emma (March 2018).
Overall, the Report concluded that the response effort was generally effective in terms of a “Whole-of-Government” approach involving local and community response, national co-ordination and provision of public information, and was well-received by the public. I am satisfied with the progress already made in implementing those recommendations falling within the remit of my own Department and the proposed legislation will facilitate further work.
With regard to public safety, my Department is in the process of finalising a review of the issue of safety at funfairs. The broad objective of the Review is to assess whether in light of recent events in Ireland and elsewhere, the current safety regime as it applies to funfairs remains fit for purpose. The review which involved significant stakeholder engagement, covers aspects of legislation relating to regulation of fairground equipment and funfairs as currently set down in section 239 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, and includes an examination of international practice in the area of regulating public safety at funfairs and more generally. A key part of the Review will be how learnings from the funfair safety system can be applied in a broader public safety and emergency management context and any associated legislative changes needed to effect this.