THE Northern Ireland Fire Service is to receive the first ever award given by the province's devolved assembly.

An illuminated scroll is to be presented to Chief Fire Officer John McClelland on Tuesday, by assembly speaker Lord Alderdice in tribute to the sacrifice made by fire fighters over the years.

Executive Staff Officer Graham Crossett said the award honoured not only the current service, but also its predecessors in the Northern Ireland Fire Brigade and the Belfast Fire Brigade, including the many officers who had lost their lives.

The move to recognise and honour fire-fighters sacrifice was unanimously backed during a vote in the assembly last November. It also follows the recent spate of incidents involving fire crews being attacked by gangs of youths throughout the province.

Speaking at the award ceremony, the Minister for Health, Social Services and Public Safety, Bairbre de Brún, praised the renowned work and dedication of the Fire Service. She said: "On this unique occasion, I know that I speak for everyone here when I say that the entire community owes you all a debt of gratitude. You have selflessly served all sections of society here over the past 30 years. Many of you have suffered injuries in the line of duty. Tragically, some have made the ultimate sacrifice and lost their lives.

"However, your unswerving dedication to duty has meant that lives have been saved, and will continue to be saved."

The fire service recently made a public appeal for an end to attacks on its crews following disturbances during the 12 July holiday period during which repeated acts of violence were committed against its personnel. (MB)

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