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Fire staff fuming over Red alert callouts

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By Sean Moriarty

Fire fighters have raised serious concerns this week over new rules that they have to stay at home during a Red weather warning but are still obliged to arrive at their local station on time if an emergency occurs.

The row centres on newly introduced work practices that were brought into place ahead of Storm Eunice last week.

A high-powered meeting between Kerry Fire and Rescue staff, Kerry County Council management and union reps was ongoing as the Killarney Advertiser closed for press late yesterday evening (Thursday).

The meeting began at 2pm yesterday and was ongoing at 6pm. Union officials from all Kerry-based fire stations attended the meeting as did Moira Murrell, the Chief Executive of Kerry County Council.

Members of Kerry Fire and Rescue claim they are being forced to stay at home and only attend callouts during Red warning weather alerts when their pager goes off.

In the past members would stay in their local fire stations - on standby - during a Red warning.

Firemen are contractually obliged to arrive at their local fire station within in five minutes of a fire call.

Their concerns are multilayered. They are worried that they cannot respond in time to a callout in the event of fallen trees on their way to the station.

They are angry that they are being forced to drive their own private vehicles to work during a Red warning at a time when their employer, Kerry County Council, is advising people not to travel.

An alternative, which was in place before, is to allow firemen to stay at their local station for the duration of the Red warning where basic sleeping and wash facilities are available on-site.

During last week’s Storm Eunice volunteer members of the Civil Defence stayed overnight at local fire stations but paid staff were told to stay at home and await callouts.

Local firemen believe this is a cost saving effort by Kerry County Council as the volunteers do not have to be paid.

If rescue staff stayed for prolonged standbys at their local stations then their per-hour wages could cost more than their callout fees.

“Kerry County Council and Met Éireann are telling people to stay inside, yet in the event of a pager going off they expect retained fire fighters to get up in the middle of the storm and drive to the station,” one local fireman told the Killarney Advertiser.

Road Insurance

He was also concerned about his road insurance in the event of an accident on the way work during a Red warning and felt his employer should be liable if he was involved in an accident as they would have instructed him to drive on dangerous roads as opposed to the safer option of staying at the local fire station.

Kerry County Council issued a statement on the issue to the Killarney Advertiser.

“Kerry Fire Service is a retained fire service with members available to provide a 24-hour emergency service and is mobilised to respond to emergencies in line with established protocols,” said the statement.

“Planning and coordination for Storm Eunice was extensive and involved detailed safety assessments across the organisation, based on established processes and procedures. The health and safety of all staff remains paramount.

“During this weather event, Kerry Fire Service and the full complement of Local Authority emergency and support services remained available to respond to emergencies in the normal way.

“The response to all weather emergencies are reviewed in their aftermath and that will also happen in this case. There will be engagement with staff unions as required and in keeping with established industrial relations structures.”

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Kerry rowing clubs flock to Killarney for the start of the coastal season

There was a fantastic spectacle of colour and rowing on Lough Leane last Sunday (June 16th) with the coastal rowing clubs of Kerry participating in the first ‘Head of the […]

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There was a fantastic spectacle of colour and rowing on Lough Leane last Sunday (June 16th) with the coastal rowing clubs of Kerry participating in the first ‘Head of the Lake’ time-trial for coastal one-design boats.

The event, hosted by the local Flesk Valley Rowing Club, signalled the start of the summer season for clubs rowing the coastal ‘one-design’ boats.

It was fitting that on the weekend that the Killarney National Park celebrated the 60th anniversary of the opening of Muckross House to the public, that hundreds of people also flocked to the Flesk Valley shore to appreciate and enjoy the splendour of the park.

Speaking after the event, Flesk Valley chairman, John Fleming thanked all the Kerry clubs who supported this new event and congratulated all the first-time rowers taking to the water in a competitive event for the first time.
“We were delighted to welcome our neighbouring clubs Workmens’ and Fossa, and look forward to renewing rivalries with them again at the Killarney Regatta at the end of this month,” he said.

“We would also like to thank Mary B. Teahan, Andrew Wharton, Johanna King and the Kerry Coastal Rowing Association for all their support and encouragement, and Denis O’Leary for coordinating safety on the water.”
Flesk Valley would also like to thank the Killarney National Park, Leanes Tool Hire, Hegartys Shop and Muckross Rowing Club for their support.

“This was a great start to the coastal rowing season, and augurs well for the months ahead as clubs build towards the All-Ireland Coastal Rowing Championships to be held in Dingle at the end of August,” added the chairman.

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NPWS announces nature scholarships to mark ‘Muckross 60’

Director General of the National Parks and Wildlife Service, Niall O’ Donnchú, this week announced the inaugural ‘Muckross 60’ nature scholarships to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the opening of […]

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Director General of the National Parks and Wildlife Service, Niall O’ Donnchú, this week announced the inaugural ‘Muckross 60’ nature scholarships to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the opening of Muckross House and Gardens to the public. The scholarships will be funded and managed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

Niall O Donnchú said, “Killarney and Muckross have a very special place in Ireland’s heritage legacy, and  such beautiful gems need constant care, nurturing and indeed protecting by future generations. In supporting these third level scholarships, the NPWS is building the knowledge base of the future to assist those generations in continuing to realise the full beauty and nature value of the very unique Muckross House and Gardens and Killarney National Park.”

Mr O Donnchú added: “Killarney has a long history of scholarship, research and frontier work on nature and that continues to this day in the management of Killarney National Park and Muckross House and Gardens. The endowment of these annual scholarships is a very clear attestation that this crucial work continues to be undertaken across our national park system and especially here in Killarney and Muckross. This work has been pioneering in respect of wildlife and nature research and indeed the reintroduction of endangered species and the discovery, even this year, of more.”

Minister for Education and Kerry T.D. Norma Foley also welcomed new scholarships to mark the 60th anniversary of Muckross House.

“Muckross House is one of the jewels in the crown of Kerry tourism and received almost one million visitors last year. These scholarships will further add to our understanding of this outstanding part of our national heritage,” she said.

Muckross House was built by the Herbert family, who were local landlords. They became very wealthy during the 18th century due to the working of the copper mines on the Muckross Peninsula. They commenced the building of the present Muckross House in 1839. It was completed in 1843 at cost of £30,000, just two years prior to the Great Irish Famine. The Herbert family hosted the visit of Queen Victoria to Muckross House in 1861 but later got into financial difficulties and lost the house in 1897.

It was then bought by Lord Ardilaun, a member of the Guinness family. He in turn sold it in 1911 to William Bowers Bourn, a wealthy Californian gold miner. Bowers Bourn gave it to his daughter Maud as a wedding gift when she married Arthur Rose Vincent, an Irish barrister who later became a Senator.

After Maude died from pneumonia in 1929, Arthur Rose Vincent decided to donate Muckross house to the Irish nation as a memorial to his wife. Muckross House was transferred to the state in 1932 with its 11,000 acre estate and became Ireland’s first National Park in 1933.

The park and gardens were opened to the public but the house remained closed until 1964 when it was reopened as a folk museum on June 14, 1964 following a campaign by people in Killarney.

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