Saturday 25 February 2017

Fire safety issues have now emerged across council houses and offices

Sam Griffin, John Brennan, and Paul Melia

Longboat Quay in Dublin
Longboat Quay in Dublin

Homes and office buildings owned by city and county councils continue to be used despite concerns about fire safety.

Urgent works are required to bring them into line with building regulations. However, they have yet to begin in some cases, a survey of local authorities by the Irish Independent reveals.

And it has emerged that State bad-bank Nama has spent €100m remediating 40 apartment blocks across the capital which required urgent works, including making them compliant with fire safety regulations.

The minimum spend has been €1m - but in one case, €30m was required, it said.

The new details come as the County and City Management Association (CCMA) said it "welcomed" calls by Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin for a national audit of buildings to uncover fire safety issues.

"We will be delighted to work with the minister to establish the most efficient and effective way of achieving this and will seek to meet with him and his officials," it said in a statement.

Trade union Siptu has also called for an "urgent and wide-ranging" audit, following the discovery of serious breaches, including at Longboat Quay in Dublin and Riverside Walk in Co Meath.

"For several years we have requested that our fire services are resourced to conduct these essential audits to confirm the true level of compliance," sector organiser Brendan O'Brien said.

"Unfortunately, these requests have been ignored despite the growing awareness of defects in many buildings. This has led to unnecessarily increased risk for members of the public and our firefighters."

A survey of local authorities shows that fire safety issues have been identified across a number of local authorities.

But the problem could even be greater than feared, as several councils said they did not have the information or did not respond to queries.

The survey reveals:

l Five council houses at the Ceol na Mara development in Kill, Co Waterford, require additional smoke and fire detection equipment. The works will be carried out, Waterford City and County Council said.

l Kildare County Council said issues had been highlighted in a number of buildings, including those used as libraries, but works have been carried out.

However, a number of private houses leased under the Rental Accommodation Scheme for council tenants had issues, some of which "remain to be addressed".

Kildare County Council said the issues were "not of a magnitude" where the safety of residents was a concern.

l In Leitrim, two buildings are still in use which require remedial works. One case involves storage of equipment, and another relates to an external door.

l Fire safety works are also required on the Old Library Building on Farnham Street in Cavan, which is currently used as council offices. A programme of works has been drawn up.

l Carlow County Council added that works had been recently completed on the former Carlow Town Council office to improve fire safety.

Limerick City and County Council is undertaking a survey of all buildings in its control, but this will not be completed until mid-2016, so it could not respond.

Cork City Council said it was not aware of any issues.

Irish Independent

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