Fire Station funding blow

NORTH Antrim Sinn Féin MLA Daithí McKay has expressed his disappointment after the Health Minister announced that capital funding will not be made available for a fire station in Ballycastle within the next three years.

The Minister, Edwin Poots, was responding to an Assembly question from the Sinn Féin Assembly Member.

Mr McKay said: “I have been lobbying for a new fire station in Ballycastle since I was first elected to the Assembly and we have made much progress. A site has been identified for the re-location of the station and a business case for the construction of a newbuild has been approved.

“It is of great disappointment that the Minister will not be making the £2.6million available for this to go ahead within the next three years. In other parts of the north, fire stations which are in inadequate locations or that are unsuitable for staff have already been replaced but unfortunately we have seen none of this work taking place in North Antrim in places like Ballycastle or Ballymena where it is needed. My party colleague Oliver McMullan continues to raise the case of Cushendall fire station which should have been replaced many years ago.

“In many places of employment a healthy working environment is a key priority for employers; indeed a certain standard is expected. Our firefighters do a fantastic job and put their lives at risk on a regular basis. The least they should expect is an decent building to use for training and other work-related purposes. Just because the Fire Service is located within the Department of Health should not mean that fire stations such as ours in North Antrim should become an after-thought for the Minister.”

Ballycastle Sinn Féin Councillor, Cara McShane, added: “This is a devastating set-back for the Fire Service in Ballycastle first and foremost. The fire-fighters have persevered for many years now in a facility which is far from adequate, while continuing to provide a first-class service in the area.

“It is also a blow to the wider community who had supported this project and whom would have benefited from the training and community facilities which the new development would have created.”