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€300k goes up in smoke as city firefighter panel is axed

DUBLIN City Council forked out a staggering €300,000 on a major recruitment drive for the fire service -- but not a single additional post will be filled externally.

The council disbanded the Dublin Fire Brigade recruitment panel despite forking out the enormous sum over a five- year period.

Hundreds of potential recruits were interviewed for the panel, with the council even hiring out Croke Park as part of the drive, the Herald can reveal.

The Council had initially planned to draw individuals from the panel and train them up to work as firefighters.

The decision to scrap the panel has been made despite the serious strain on the fire service.

Any new recruits deemed necessary now will be filled from within the local authority, it has emerged.

Fire sources have told the Herald that the force comes under "intense pressure" particularly during holiday periods.

"We're struggling to cope at the very best of times. The strain we're under at busy periods like St Patrick's Day makes it extremely difficult to cover all call outs," a source said.

And the Herald understands that the overtime bill for the fire brigade came to a hefty €3.05m last year.

Now the taxpayer is counting the huge cost after it emerged the entire panel has been scrapped.

Up to €300,000 has already been spent since May 2007, the Herald understands.

Some of the 100 potential recruits have been left "devastated" after their dreams of working for the fire brigade are shattered.

Father-of-two Conor Kilroy (33) told the Herald that people scrapped their emigration plans and gave up their jobs in the hope of becoming firefighters.

"We feel misled and completely let down. We're devastated and we do not believe axing the panel makes economic sense," he said.

"We are now going to campaign for the panel to be reinstated. The council have a lot of questions to answer and they cannot ignore us," he added.

In a letter to one of the recruits, fire service executive manager Gerry Geraghty said that the panel was scrapped due to the difficult economic circumstances.

"The decision to terminate the Panel was not taken lightly and we understand the time and effort put in by applicants. Unfortunately Dublin Fire Brigade, like all public services, have been particularly affected by the economic downturn.

"While it may be of little consolation now people are of course entitled to apply again when we eventually recommence open recruitment."

The City Council was today unable to provide a comment.