Northern Ireland Fire Service worried military involvement 'could damage community relations'

Video report by Paul Reilly

Northern Ireland's interim chief fire and rescue officer says he wants to avoid drafting in military support in the event of fire service strikes over "concerns around the impact on community relations".

It comes as the Fire Service called for "special arrangements" to be made to prevent the need for the military to be deployed should the body's national strike action go ahead.94% of firefighters in Northern Ireland voted in favour of going on strike as part of an ongoing dispute over pay.

As part of contingency plans in other parts of the UK, fire services have implemented plans to deploy the military to keep people safe during the potential strike action.

Andy Hearn says he is worried military involvement would not only damage the public image of the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service, but also create a greater risk to firefighters in the long term.

He said: “Ahead of the Fire Brigades Union National Executive Council meeting next week, I am calling for all council members to fully appreciate and recognise the unique circumstances here in Northern Ireland, and agree to special arrangements to negate the need for Military resources during any period of strike action."

In a statement, the Fire Brigades Union said it is working hard to avoid strike action. General Secretary Matt Wrack added: "We registered our pay claim in May 2022. It's outrageous that eight months on, we still do not have acceptable offer from our employers, and that they are now resorting to such desperate tactics as this 11th hour demand by the head of the service in Northern Ireland." He continued: "Mr Hearn is well aware that the answer is for fire service employers, including the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service, to urgently make a new offer to significantly increase the pay of all firefighters across the UK." No date has been set for any industrial action - both sides are due meet again next Thursday.

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