Firefighters: simmering tensions

SIPTU and a break-away emergency services union have entered into a legal battle over the rights to a €62,000 bank account, the Sunday Tribune has learned.

The cash reserve, collected from staff at Dublin Fire Brigade, was established in 2002 and used to finance research and training.

However, it has now become the focal point of tensions between Siptu members and those who have defected to the alternative Irish Fire and Emergency Services Association (IFESA) with both sides in the process of seeking legal advice.

Siptu maintains the money has always belonged to union members, not the union itself, but that those who left Siptu were no longer entitled to dictate its future use.

The IFESA maintains the money was never attached to Siptu but was rather a fund established by Dublin Fire Brigade members.

John Kidd of the IFESA said the fund was set up to assist in research and training, and to fund consultants visiting Ireland, something that Siptu had never financed.

Members traditionally contributed €1 a week and almost one- third of the 900 Dublin-based members did so.

"This was like a divorce; Siptu made the decision that it was their fund," said Kidd. "I wanted to convene a meeting [last month] and ask everyone what they wanted to do. We wanted people to show up and decide – to have a vote."

One of the obstacles to finding a solution is the question of how much of the money was contributed by existing Siptu members and how much was given by those who left to join the IFESA.

"I am trying to stop an internal row that should not happen. At the end of the day we are all firefighters," said Kidd.

However, Siptu insisted the issue was very clear. "There is absolutely no dispute at the moment," said sector organiser Paul Smyth.

"It's a fund like hundreds of others that we [Siptu] have; it's deducted out of people's wages, out of Siptu levies."