The fire service in Northern Ireland, like elsewhere in the U.K., was strengthened by the mass recruitment of auxiliaries before the Second World War.
In the reorganisation of the fire service after the war, with the disbanding of the NFS in 1947, responsibility for the fire service in Northern Ireland was divided between Belfast and three regional brigades. In 1950 the Northern Ireland Fire Authority (NIFA) replaced the three short-lived brigades, and the numbers of firefighters continued to increase under its remit.
However, unlike England, Wales and later Scotland, none of the Northern Ireland fire authorities joined the NJC, which settled disputes on conditions and pay scales. Initially, the Northern Ireland authorities feared they would lose their independence in dealing with employees and the financial implications of wage agreements.
As a result many firefighters were worse off after the war than they were before. A campaign by the FBU in the aftermath of the ‘spit and polish’ demonstrations, won parity with British NJC rates of pay for Belfast firefighters in 1955.
By 1967, after a further long-fought campaign headed by Northern Ireland executive member Archie McArdle, the NIFA agreed to observe all conditions of service set out by the NJC. This helped bring the conditions of firefighters across Northern Ireland in line with their British counterparts. An article in The Firefighter headed “Northern Ireland Agreement Brings Parity Near” stated:
“Our comrades in No. 2 District Northern Ireland have reached a point where they are about to establish parity in all their conditions of service with the rest of firemen in Great Britain. Members of the union who have followed the struggle of our members in Northern Ireland will appreciate what this must mean to them. Following a fruitful visit by national officers, Bob Bagley and Bro.
Tom Haston to the Northern Ireland district in January, it is hoped that one of the age old problems, the gap in the conditions of service between Northern Ireland and Great Britain will soon be finally closed.”