Monday 25 September 2017

Lessons must be learned, say firemen's families as council guilty

Eddie Sheehy: expressed council’s sincere regret
Eddie Sheehy: expressed council’s sincere regret

Conor Gallagher and Declan Brennan

THE families of two firefighters hope "lessons" will be learned, as a county council pleaded guilty to criminal health and safety violations over their deaths.

Wicklow County Council pleaded guilty on day nine of its trial, but said that the breaches of law did not lead to the deaths of father-of-15 Brian Murray (46) and Mark O'Shaughnessy (26).

The two men died fighting a blaze at a disused ink factory at Adelaide Villas in Bray, Co Wicklow, on September 26, 2007.

The council will be sentenced on July 30 at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court when it faces fines of up to €3m.

At the end of the trial, Wicklow County Manager Eddie Sheehy, said the council accepts there were breaches of the law but that they did not lead to the deaths of the two firefighters. He expressed the council's sincere regret and sympathies to the families.

However, Darren Murphy, speaking on behalf of the O'Shaughnessy family, said they feel Mr Sheehy is "incorrect in his assessment of the indictment".

He said they were restricted from commenting further at this point but look forward to being able to "voice" their opinions after sentencing.

"Although no apology from Wicklow County Council has been forthcoming, their late admission of guilt today has moved us closer to a conclusion and for that we are happy," he said.

Sinn Fein councillor John Brady, speaking on behalf of the families, questioned why it took the council until now to change their plea to guilty on the three charges.

Mr Brady said an "awful lot of money" had gone into the trial and loved ones had to "relive the terrible day six years ago".

Mr Brady said he had stood on a picket line in 2005 alongside one of the victims, Mr Murray, trying to highlight the problems in Wicklow Fire Service.

John Kidd, chair of the Irish Fire and Emergency Association, said the families wanted "lessons to be learned" from the trial.

Judge Desmond Hogan said it had been a harrowing case for both witnesses and families.

The council admitted failing to ensure there were enough fire engines available to fight such a fire and failing to have an adequate central command system to call up crews from other stations.

'Incinerator'

It also admitted not providing adequate training in a new compressed air foam system which was used at the blaze and to failing to review an outdated safety statement.

In evidence, several firefighters told how they tried to rescue their colleagues in the factory which they described as "an incinerator" and likened to a 747 plane crash.

James Maguire, the then Bray station chief, told the court he only had half the required crew for such an incident.

Mr Murray and Mr O'Shaughnessy had been sent in with the new foam system to fight the blaze.

Irish Independent

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