- 25 Oct 23
Visa rules prevented some ambulance crews from crossing the border into Donegal to assist with the Creeslough tragedy, it has been revealed.
Almost a year on from the Creeslough tragedy, it has emerged that some Northern Ireland ambulance crews were unable to rush to the site of the disaster in Donegal.
The gas explosion took place at an Apple Green in Creeslough Donegal on the 7th of October 2022. The explosion killed 10 people. Their names were: Robert Garwe and his five-year-old daughter Shauna Flanagan-Garwe; Jessica Gallagher; Martin McGill; Sydney native James O’Flaherty; Catherine O’Donnell and her 13-year-old son James Monaghan; shop worker Martina Martin; 14-year-old Leona Harper; and Hugh Kelly.
The disclosure about the Altnagelvin Hospital- based ambulances in Derry was made by an inquiry led by the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly.
The information was presented to the Assembly in Kildare by Senator Emer Currie, chair of the Sovereign Affairs Committee report on Common Travel Area.
Fine Gael Senator Emer Currie told the assembly "Some ambulances from Northern Ireland could not assist during the explosion that occurred in Creeslough because not all of the paramedics had the necessary visas to cross the invisible border".
In spite of this, Northern Ireland's emergency services did play a significant role in helping with the aftermath of the Creeslough tragedy, providing NI fire services, ambulances, and the air ambulance.
The Creeslough tragedy does demonstrate however the difficulties registration and visa regulations cause for healthcare services in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
The issue is said to be particular pressing for consultants who treat patients on both sides of the invisible border.
The committee led by Senator Currie told the full Assembly that cross border rules registration posed difficulties for medical professionals and those working in social care. The assembly accepted Sentor Currie's report and its list of recommendations.
Northern Ireland's Western Health and Social Care Trust, runs hospitals in Derry, Fermanagh and Tyrone, has 8 children receiving social care in the republic at any one time. This requires the registration of 30 member of staff for each case with CORU - the republic Children's Psychologists Service.
The committee described this as imposing 'an additional administration and financial burden' on the trust.
The issues of Northern Irish ambulance crew members not being able to travel to assist at the site of the Creeslough explosion due to visa rules, was used to highlight the severity of the issue.
As of October 2023, more than 1,000 lines of inquiry and 900 statements have been taken by gardaí as part of an investigation into the explosion at the service station 1 year ago.
Senator Currie concluded: "freedom of movement on these islands can reciprocate rights across our island- which are vital for Citizens on a dat-to-day basis".