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Official opening of the new Laois Civil Defence
Premises at Mountmellick
by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence,
Mr. Alan Shatter, T.D.

Friday 17th February, 2012

I am delighted to be here today to formally open this new facility and to get the opportunity to meet with the Civil Defence Volunteers and to give recognition for the great service that you provide to the community.

First of all, let me congratulate you on the new Unit here at Bay Road which has been put in place by Laois County Council. The organisation has certainly come a long way from the late 1950’s when I understand Civil Defence classes were conducted in the Old Courthouse building. This is a very impressive new facility and you have the added value of great space and scope around the building for your training activities.

Laois is very fortunate in having very dedicated Civil Defence Volunteers and I want to acknowledge the terrific work done by Civil Defence Officer Liam Preston, ably assisted by his Commander in Mountmellick, Fergal Conroy, for keeping such an active and strong Civil Defence organisation at local level. With centres in Stradbally, Durrow, Portlaoise and here in Mountmellick, Civil Defence is a widely respected and appreciated organisation throughout the County and, on occasions such as today, it’s great to witness the ongoing development of Civil Defence in this area.

I am told that Civil Defence in Laois have always been progressive in their approach. They were one of the first to launch a Bike Unit (here in Mountmellick) and until very recently were the only Unit to have a trained search dog within Civil Defence. I’m very glad to hear that the current search dog is far more friendly to outsiders than his predecessor!

At national level I am delighted to be able to say that, following a Government decision in July of last year, legislation is currently being drafted to bring the functions of Civil Defence back into the Department of Defence. I see this as a very positive step for the Civil Defence organisation and I have no doubt that Civil Defence will continue to flourish as part of the Department of Defence.

I would like to take this opportunity to assure you all, and particularly the Volunteers that are here today, that the Government will continue to support Civil Defence in its plans to develop the organisation into the future. I am pleased to say that my Department was able to maintain the same level of grant-in-aid to the Civil Defence Board this year in spite of the many necessary cutbacks being made in other areas of the public service.

I would also like to formally acknowledge the assistance and the strong support that Laois County Council, in the person of Peter Carey, the County Manager, and his staff have given to Civil Defence in the county over many years. Without that level of support it would be impossible for Laois Civil Defence to maintain the strength of the organisation here locally.

Civil Defence is very much a partnership between national and local Government on the one hand and the almost 4,000 Volunteers nationwide who make up this great organisation. Without the combined efforts of Civil Defence at national level and the local authority at local level, working in unison to support them, the dedicated Volunteers would not be in a position to support their local communities in times of emergency.

The initiative taken by Laois County Council in facilitating the provision of this fine facility for use by Civil Defence is to be commended and I would encourage other local authorities to follow suit in whatever way possible to enable their local Civil Defence organisation to develop into the future.

In their response to various emergencies, such as the recent tragedy that unfolded in West Cork, and the operation that was launched from this very Centre early last month, in appalling weather conditions, to rescue a person in distress on the Slieve Blooms, Civil Defence have demonstrated their ability to work seamlessly in support of the front-line services; the Fire Service, HSE, Coastguard and, of course, the Gardaí with whom Civil Defence here in Laois have forged a particularly strong relationship.

This ceremony today is all about recognising the efforts of Laois Civil Defence Volunteers within the county and I want to congratulate you all on your new centre and on your unselfish contribution to your local community.

I wish you all continued success.

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