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Speech at the 75th Anniversary Commemoration of Dublin Airport Fire and Emergency Ambulance Service

Dublin Airport, 17 September 2018

It is a great pleasure to join you all here today at Dublin Airport Fire Station, to mark the 75th anniversary of the Dublin Airport Fire Service. May I commence by thanking Dalton Philips, Gerry Keogh, for inviting me to be here today and all of you for your hospitality and the generous welcome you have extended to me. It is wonderful to see so many people gathered here today, including many retired members of the service as well as family and friends of servicing officers.

Agus muid ag comóradh ar an chloicmhíle seo tráthnóna, aithnímid grúpa daoine a chuireann go mór lenár sochaí. Mar Uachtarán na hÉireann is mór an phribhléid é i gcónaí bualadh leis na saoránaigh sin a bhfuil spiorad na rannpháirtíochta gníomhach agus an dlúthpháirtíocht daonna orthu i réimsí gníomhaíochta a bhfuil tionchar dearfach acu ar ár sochaí. Is ócáid ​​den sórt sin é ócáid lae inniu.

This afternoon, as we mark this milestone anniversary we also recognise a group of people who make such a valuable, indeed crucial contribution to our society. As President of Ireland it is always a great privilege to meet with those citizens whose spirit of active participation and human solidarity propels them into areas of activity which impact so positively on our society. Today is such an occasion.

There can be absolutely no doubt that working for the emergency services is a huge challenge, an incredibly demanding task and a daunting responsibility. Yet it is something that people choose to do because they have that strength of character, that courage, that commitment to society and that deep concern for others that marks out the true heroes and role models in life; the people who believe in an active and fully engaged citizenship.

It is almost eighty years since the first flight departed from Dublin Airport, bound for Liverpool on a cold January morning.  The airport’s emergency services at that time consisted of just one fire engine and an ambulance operated by a member of Dublin Fire Brigade Auxiliary branch. Two years later, when Dublin Airport’s own emergency service was established it comprised a part time Fire Chief, Johnny Maher assisted by Charlie Craddock who was a carpenter and Luke Collins, a storeman.  The men were presented with a fireman’s belt, axe and military helmet and given instructions on when to report for fire drills and when to stand by for aircraft movements.

Much has changed across those decades as Ireland continued to evolve in an increasingly interconnected world.  Last year, nearly 30 million passengers travelled through Dublin Airport, to 195 destinations in 42 countries, operated by 56 different airlines. They join the estimated 500 million passengers who have travelled through Dublin Airport since that first flight took off in 1940.

The Dublin Airport Emergency Service has never failed to rise to new and greater challenges, and today some one hundred and twenty Airport Fire Officers, male and female, work full time in Dublin Airport’s Fire Station, providing an emergency service twenty-four hours a day throughout the year.

It is a great pleasure, indeed a privilege, to have this opportunity to meet the men and women of this service, to observe this uniformed parade of officers and to recognise the contribution you and your forebearers have made to the story of Dublin Airport over the last 75 years. I commend your bravery, your commitment to the protection of civil aircraft and the travelling public and your dedication to constant training, improvement and preparedness.

To embark on a career in the emergency services is a choice that requires commitment to society, a concern for others, a real desire to be an active participant in life and an unselfish altruism that always marks out the true heroes within our communities. For those who choose to work in the emergency services, the pain, suffering, fear and anxiety of others is something they must witness on a frequent basis. There can be no doubt that it is not a career for the faint hearted, but one that requires enormous reservoirs of courage and great strength of character.

The service that you provide here is greatly impressive. I know that many of you are trained paramedics and also that Dublin has been designated a Heart Safe Airport by the Irish Heart Foundation due to its successful defibrillator programme – a programme which has seen 31 lives saved at this airport in the past 15 years. I am also aware that the Dublin Airport’s Emergency Fire Services work very closely with the Dublin Fire Brigade, providing additional support to the city’s service, as needed, and have provided invaluable help with a number of large fires in the surrounding areas in recent years.

However, not only do you have to have the necessary hard technical skill to assist the victims of accidents and emergencies but also what are referred to as the soft human skills of care and compassion to support and comfort people who are traumatised by what they have endured or witnessed. Like all emergency workers and frontline staff, Airport fire fighters must train for situations which they hope will not arise. Dublin has been fortunate that loss of life at the airport has been rare, albeit tragic. Thankfully, Dublin Airport have not had a serious aircraft incident in many years, but I know that fire officers are constantly on standby should they be required to assist if an incident were to occur during one of the hundreds of thousands of take-offs and landings each year.

Today we gather to not only celebrate this seventy fifth anniversary of the establishment of the emergency services, but also to honour those fire officers who put the safety and security of Dublin Airport passengers at the heart of all that they do and have done.

At this point may I commend Station Officer Scott Dexter, who designed the medal which you have received, as an acknowledgement of our appreciation and gratitude for your commitment to protecting and saving lives. I know that a significant amount of thought has gone in to its design. Scott has explained to me that the face of the medal reflects the station’s name and the years of commemoration. It features the old Aer Rianta fire service symbol of a wreath, which was a part of the uniform insignia in the past, and an old-style helmet and a cross axe – familiar symbols of firefighters internationally. The medal’s ribbon features a tricolour, in recognition of the fact that the fire service, much like Dublin Airport itself, serves the people of Ireland. It’s a beautiful and fitting medal which I hope you will all wear with justified pride.

I would like to conclude by thanking you all, once again, for the great welcome you have given me here today. I am confident that Dublin Airport Emergency Services will continue to respond to new challenges, unfailingly and unselfishly giving the very best to Dublin Airport into the future, building on the excellent service you already provide.  

Is mian liom gach rath a ghuí oraibh don todhchaí sin, agus comhghairdeas a dhéanamh lenár bhfáighteoirí bonn go léir anseo inniu.

I wish you every success into that future, and congratulate all our medal recipients here today.

Go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir.