Fire chiefs rapped over not backing Northern Ireland team for World Games
A retired firefighter has expressed disgust at the refusal of the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) to support members participating in future World Police and Fire Games.
Gary Davison retired in 2013 after 27 years, but as a dedicated sportsman continues to represent Northern Ireland at the biennial event.
Northern Ireland hosted the games in 2013 and garnered positive headlines worldwide.
Mr Davison, from Carrickfergus, feels he can no longer represent Northern Ireland at future games because the NIFRS is unwilling to help support the team.
He has written an open letter to the chief fire officer, NIFRS board and politicians outlining his concerns.
Mr Davison said firefighters had been let down by the service and that he was "absolutely disgusted" with senior management.
"I retired from the NIFRS in 2013 just as the World Games came to Northern Ireland," he said.
"I was keen to represent the service in the games, but due to an injury I was unable to compete at the level I knew I was capable of.
"I did, however, win two gold medals. The World Police and Fire Games were a fantastic success, and everyone including ministers, councils, the NIFRS corporate management team and senior officers clambered for kudos and recognition."
Two years later he again wanted to represent the service at the 2015 games in the United States but found there was no backing for the team.
"I was shocked to learn that no support mechanism had been put in place to support anyone from the NIFRS to attend," he said.
"Being in a fortunate position, I was able to self-fund to the event. Some of the serving members had taken part in a few fundraising events, which raised money for the Firefighters Charity and to assist with travel expenses.
"At the opening ceremony of the World Police and Fire Games in 2015 the Northern Ireland team led out the parade, but we looked like a mishmash group with different tops and bottoms.
"Compared to others, we looked like we had come from a Third World country.
"I myself won eight gold medals, two silver and one bronze, with the NIFRS team collecting a total of 26 medals. Upon our return there was little interest from the corporate management team or senior officers."
The 2017 games were due to take place in Montreal but have been cancelled due to a boycott by local firefighters, however they may still go ahead in Toronto.
NIFRS said: "The NIFRS has received a proposal to support activities to raise funds for personnel who wish to participate in the 2017 World Police and Fire Games.
"The governance arrangements outlined in the proposal cannot be supported in its current format.
"We have offered to meet with Mr Davison for further discussion."
The Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure said: "We understand that the 2017 World Police and Fire Games in Montreal have been cancelled. However, any decision to send a team to the event would be a matter for the relevant organisations."