30 March 2012 No Comments by The Northern Standard

The official opening by Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan of the new Monaghan Fire Station Headquarters on Friday last (see story page one) was a significant occasion.
In part, as all such formal ceremonies are, it was an acknowledgement of substantial State investment in the development and improvement of an important aspect of local infrastructure: in this instance, the modernisation of the facilities available to our fire and rescue services to carry out their vital safeguarding function and to impart the training and upskilling required by existing personnel and future recruits to continue to discharge their duties to the high standard of professionalism and efficiency long synonymous with emergency services in this county.
More importantly, however, Friday’s function was one which gave due recognition to the contribution made by current and past fire service personnel to the wellbeing of life in Co Monaghan.
We owe a debt immeasurable in material terms to the men and women who volunteer themselves for this form of service.
Theirs is an uncommon manifestation of valour, requiring a commitment to be on constant call to respond expediently to fires, accidents and other emergency situations as they arise that makes great demands on their own physical and emotional capacities and on the essential support network provided for them by their families.
There is an established tradition of this form of social commitment in each town and its hinterland in Co Monaghan, which in many cases constitutes a proud family lineage, a duty of service honoured by successive generations with a pride as deep and binding as any of the ancestral obligations traditionally associated with nobility.
If there is sometimes a sense that we undervalue or take for granted our emergency services personnel, this may in part derive from the characteristic lack of ostentation with which they go about their work.
Firemen and women tend in disposition towards the avoidance of the praise or credit that is their due in preference to the deeper satisfaction offered by a job well done – even though the results of their professionalism are often the literal preservation of person and property from destruction.
It is hard to conceive of a public response adequate to recompense the role they discharge in society – but we can at least strive to ensure that have the best facilities possible at their disposal and, when appropriate public occasions arise, some measure of tribute comes their way for longevity and distinction of service.
Last Friday’s ceremony ticked both those boxes admirably, with the Minister’s comments about the courage and commitment of fire and rescue personnel, and the supportive role played by their families, evoking a powerful resonance, and enthusiastic endorsement, in all those present.
What Minister Hogan had to say about good fire safety practice also merited a deep level of attention and response from his listenership.
One of the most painful aspects of the fire service’s work must be the realisation that many of the call-outs they have to attend to, even those that can be most severe in terms of the risk to lives and property, arise from a neglect to observe basic safety precepts.
It is difficult to accept that, in an age which often seems hidebound with statutory health and safety requirements, basic fire precautions can go neglected in our homes, workplaces and public venues.
This is not ultimately due to a lack of regulation or information, but simple human failings arising in part perhaps from the ubiquity of energy sources and technology and a consequent complacency towards their inherent risks.
Children and the elderly are traditionally identified as the most vulnerable to fire’s threat, and more can certainly be done at basic community level to accentuate their protection.
We would endorse the Minister’s call for those organisations regularly in contact with older people and those living alone to make a basic fire safety check a part of the caring contact they extend.
Our primary schools are no doubt attentive to the education in this regard they impart to our young but a review of their efforts, and perhaps the evolution of a co-ordinated initiative carried out with the support of the fire service in the county, would help to reinforce the basic precautionary message for children, who so equipped can be very effective disseminators of it in their homes. The fire safety message should also commence at pre-school level.
But there are very few of us who would not benefit from our own refresher course in basic fire safety good practice as it pertains to smoke alarms and the basic household checks that should be carried out at the end of each day.
A greater consciousness of our personal fire safety responsibility would also be one means of offering gratitude for the uncommon valour that our county’s fire and rescue service personnel routinely exercise on our behalf.
The glorious spell of unseasonable but most welcome sunshine we are currently basking in has undoubtedly lifted the spirits of Co Monaghan people this week.
Sadly, the prevailing weather and its invitation outdoors will also have brought home to many just how pervasive the litter blight has become in our midst.
Despite the efforts of our local authorities and our many very active Tidy Towns organisations, the wanton discarding of litter and domestic refuse, sometimes on a near to industrial scale, has reached epidemic proportions in some locations.
The problem is becoming particularly manifest along some of our national roadways, caused in part by the thoughtless casting of food wrappers and drink containers from motor vehicles, and in part by more systematic and severe illegal dumping practices.
This situation deserves some measure of address from the National Roads Authority – certainly a better one than that offered by the NRA to Monaghan Town Council recently when the elected members drew this escalating problem to their attention.
But while we wait for a better official response to the activity along our by-passes and major road arteries, we can all, as part of our local communities, ensure that the blight does not take hold in the places where we live.
The annual Spring Clean initiative in the county is currently in its phase of preparation and promotion, and we would strongly encourage our readership to put their shoulders to the wheel and avail of the local authority assistance being placed at the disposal of communities to help banish litter from their precincts.

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