FIREfighters are trying to form a breakaway union in response to serious concerns about the Croke Park agreement, the Sunday Tribune has learned.

The Irish Fire and Emergency Services Association (IFESA) has been tentatively approaching staff with requests for membership.

Sources in the fire service say that, by last week, 100 to 200 Siptu and Impact members had filled out application forms in fire stations. The aim is understood to be the formation of an overall association that would represent fire fighters and ambulance personnel across the country.

Sources indicate the move is a reaction to cuts in frontline services which they say are putting lives at risk.

Firefighters in Cork and Limerick are said to be interested in a new union while other rural, volunteer-based outfits will also be approached.

The move is in direct response to cuts, particularly the recruitment freeze, early retirement programmes that have led to the non-replacement of experienced staff, and the exodus of members to foreign countries in search of better pay and conditions.

"The reality is that they want to bypass the union leadership and lobby the government directly," said a senior source. "People are just trying to find out what the numbers are in terms of people who are interested. There is a hell of a lot of anger over cuts. We can't get patients into hospitals; there is nothing worse than sitting outside Beaumont Hospital with a sick patient for six or seven hours because they can't take them in."

Nationally, Siptu has about 1,400 members in the fire service and others belong to Impact.

Firefighters have also outlined individual financial concerns; earlier this year there were claims that around 100 Dublin members were signing on for social welfare to make ends meet.