NI Fire and Rescue Service remains 'committed to answering Maggie's Call' after potential legal concerns raised

The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service has said it remains committed to answering 'Maggie's Call' after potential legal concerns arose this week.

Health Minister Robin Swann pictured at Carnlough Fire Station last week with Maggie's mother, Sheenagh Black and members of the local community. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Health Minister Robin Swann pictured at Carnlough Fire Station last week with Maggie's mother, Sheenagh Black and members of the local community. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

A collaboration between the NIFRS and the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service, Maggie's Call would see a phased roll-out of on-call firefighters being trained to co-respond to incidents in rural areas where someone has had a cardiac arrest.

Health Minister Robin Swann announced the initiative last week after meeting with the family of five-year old Maggie Black, who sadly passed away in December 2021.

The Black family, from Glenarm, launched a petition in Maggie's memory to ensure that the fire service would be automatically dispatched to emergency medical calls in rural areas.

Maggie (5) was a pupil at St John's Primary School in Carnlough.

However, during the Health Minister's questions in the Assembly on Tuesday of this week, North Antrim DUP MLA Mervyn Storey asked for confirmation that the chief fire officer had suspended the roll-out after receiving legal advice.

Responding, Mr Swann he was aware of correspondence between the chief fire officer over legal issues that had been raised by the Fire Brigades Union in regards to Maggie’s Call.

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Commenting on the issue today, Chief Fire and Rescue Officer Peter O’Reilly said: “On Friday February 25, Health Minister, Robin Swann, received the Maggie’s Call petition from her parents Sheenagh and Brian Black.

"Immediately after this, I received a solicitor’s letter from a firm acting on behalf of the local Regional Committee of the Fire Brigades Union. This letter threatened legal action against Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service if I did not confirm, in writing, that NIFRS would not proceed with the work associated with Maggie’s Call.

"I can confirm that the work associated with Maggie’s Call, at Carnlough Fire and Rescue Station, began at 5pm on Saturday, February 26 and continues.

"This work has been inspired by the brave family of young Maggie Black. Their efforts have been backed by over 23,000 local people in a petition, and we are determined to support similar local communities who would also like to see their local community firefighters answer Maggie’s Call and be mobilised to save more lives."

Mr O Reilly continued: "We will continue to meet with the representative bodies of firefighters to determine how best to progress Maggie’s Call to all NIFRS fire and rescue stations.

"Maggie’s Call has expedited our plans to enhance how we deliver our service to the public. Working in partnership with our colleagues in Northern Ireland Ambulance Service, we are committed to answering Maggie’s Call.

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"We know that by ensuring the fastest response possible we can give patients the best possible chance of survival.”

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