WICKLOW County Council have asked a court to consider the cuts to its annual budget when imposing punishment for criminal health and safety violations relating to the deaths of two firefighters six years ago.
Fire officers Brian Murray (46) and Mark O'Shaughnessy (26) died fighting a blaze at a disused factory in Bray on September 26, 2007.
Last month the council pleaded guilty in the middle of its trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to three charges of health and safety breaches after the State dropped a charge alleging that one of these breaches had caused the men's deaths.
On Tuesday, Aileen Donnelly, defending the local authority, said that because this charge had been dropped the court should approach the sentencing as if the deaths did not occur.
A representative from the council pleaded guilty to failing the safety of employees by ensuring there were enough fire engines available and that there was an adequate central command system to call up fire crews from other stations.
The council admitted failing to review an outdated safety statement and to provide adequate training in a new air foam system. A charge of failing to carry out a proper risk assessment was withdrawn by the prosecution following the pleas.
Ms Donnelly asked the court to accept that these were not deliberate breaches and the council regretted them and had remedied them since the fire.
She said that as a public authority, Wicklow County Council has a duty to provide services to the county and that since 2008 their budget has been reduced by 29pc. She said that Wicklow had the smallest budget of all the local authorities in the greater Dublin area.
She said that the maximum sentence under health and safety law is a fine of €3m but she said this fine is there for major multinational companies as a deterrence. Counsel said the council should not be penalised to the point that it could not pay.
Alex Owens, prosecuting, said the State were also seeking that the costs of investigation and prosecution of the offences would be awarded against the council. He said these costs were agreed by both sides to be €95,793.
Judge Desmond Hogan said he needed time to consider the matter and adjourned sentencing until October 25.