Following the confirmation that the Risk Avoidance and Danger Awareness Resource (RADAR) Centre in Belfast is to close on Friday 20 December 2019, Ulster Unionist MLA and former firefighter Robbie Butler has said he is certain funding could have been found to keep it open had a local Executive been in place.
Robbie Butler said:
“Before becoming an Assembly Member I worked for the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service for 16 years. In the case of fires – like every other emergency - prevention is always better than cure.
“Since the RADAR safety centre opened in 2015, the hands on work it has done in educating and informing thousands of our young people in the dangers of fire, the importance of road safety, and improving their awareness of the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse has been invaluable.
“The centre employs 15 people and only costs approximately £650,000 to run each year. Given the importance of the work that it does, as well as the potential lifesaving consequences of what it teaches to our schoolchildren, I strongly believe it’s worth every penny.
“I have been informed however that the PSNI has now taken the difficult decision to no longer fund the service and as a result, staff have been notified that it will close on Friday 20th December.
“The centre was unfortunately never placed on a secure or permanent financial footing, and the loss of the service is a loss to the entire community.
“The PSNI is under severe financial strain so it would be wrong to blame it for the decision it has been forced to take. Instead, I strongly believe the duty of funding the service should have been shared across several other partners, not least the Departments of Justice, Health and Education.
“Each of those are multi-billion pound Departments and I find it impossible to believe that they each couldn’t find £200,000 to retain the crucial service.
“I am certain that had a local Executive been in place the funds would have been found, yet in the absence of Ministers to take the decision it now appears inevitable that this will soon be become the latest in a long and shameful list of services to suffer as a result of the stalemate at Stormont.”