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Fire Service

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 14 December 2021

Tuesday, 14 December 2021

Questions (255)

Neale Richmond


255. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the number of assaults that were recorded on firefighters from 2015 to date in 2021, by county; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61186/21]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

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, providing a central training programme, issuing guidance on operational and other related matters and providing capital funding support for equipment and priority infrastructural projects.

Attacks on emergency services personnel are completely unacceptable, and this is reflected in the specific legislation dealing with assaults on, or threats to, emergency workers in front line positions as contained in section 19 of the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994 (as amended by section 185 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006). Section 19 provides that any person who assaults a person providing medical services at or in a hospital, or a peace officer acting in the execution of their duty, is guilty of an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine or a term of imprisonment not exceeding 12 months or both or, on conviction on indictment, to a fine or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 7 years, or to both. A peace officer refers to a member of An Garda Síochána, a prison officer, a member of the fire brigade, ambulance personnel or a member of the defence forces. The offences in section 19 were extended to hospital, ambulance and fire brigade personnel by means of section 185 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006 in order to address the problem of assaults and obstruction of personnel engaged in providing emergency services.

In addition to the special offences under section 19 of the 1994 Act, the general criminal law applies. For example, in the case of an assault causing serious harm to an emergency worker, the offender may be prosecuted under the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997.

With regard to the Fire Service, the provision of a fire service in its functional area is a statutory function of individual fire authorities under the Fire Services Act, 1981 and 2003. Any queries relating to assaults perpetrated against members of the fire service staff, or successful prosecutions taken against those who committed such assaults, should be referred to individual fire authorities. As Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, I have no function in the matter and the information sought is not available in my Department.

Individual fire authorities have engaged with communities in areas where incidents occur with a view to reducing the number of these types of violent attacks. Nonetheless, decisions taken to proceed in specific situations, to avoid incidents, and how to proceed with prosecutions are appropriately made by the relevant authorities, in consultation with An Garda Síochána.