‘Maggie’s Call’ plans go on despite legal threat

The fire service is pressing ahead with a plan to attend cardiac calls with the ambulance service, despite a threat of legal action from a firm acting for a trade union.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 3rd March 2022, 7:42 am

The plan, known as ‘Maggie’s Call’ in memory of a five-year-old who died after waiting on an ambulance, was announced by Health Minister Robin Swann last month.

It emerged earlier this week that legal action had been threatened if it wasn’t called off . On Tuesday, the Assembly heard that work had stopped.

But in a statement last night, the chief fire and rescue officer Peter O’Reilly said: “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.”

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Health Minister Robin Swann at Carnlough Fire Station, County Antrim with Sheenagh Black with a copy of the petition Maggies Call

He said the legal threat had come from a firm acting on behalf of the local regional committee of the Fire Brigades Union.

Mr O’Reilly also paid tribute to the family of Maggie Black, the five-year-old for whom the project is named, who died in December in Carnlough after waiting more than an hour for an ambulance, saying: “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’.”

The petition was launched by the Black family following Maggie’s death, writing: “On the morning of 1st December 2021, our lives changed forever, as we lost our innocent, fun-loving, beautiful “Wee Maggie”.

“She was the light of our lives, who made an impression on everyone she met. We as a family will never be able to put into words the impact of that morning’s events.”

The petition was presented to Health Minister Robin Swann last month, who announced the project would go ahead.

Mr O’Reilly said: “On Friday 25 February 2022, 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.”

He continued: “This letter threatened legal action against Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) if I did not confirm, in writing, that NIFRS would not proceed with the work associated with ‘Maggie’s Call’.”

Confirming the intention to press ahead, he added: “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’.

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