Tuesday 27 September 2016

Priest: Settled community has failed to walk in the shoes of bereaved Carrickmines families

Robin Schiller and Nicola Anderson

Published 22/10/2015 | 02:30

Mourners light candles in memory of the ‘Carrickmines 10’ who died in the tragedy last weekend
Mourners light candles in memory of the ‘Carrickmines 10’ who died in the tragedy last weekend
5Candellight vigil for the ten people who lost their lives Glenamuck halting site fire in Carrickmines,Dublin this evening….Pic Stephen Collins/Collins PhotosPic Stephen Collins/Collins PhotosPic Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

A priest who is overseeing the funerals of the Connors family has hit out at settled people who have failed to emphathise with travellers after the tragic Carrrickmines fire.

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Parish Priest Monsignor Dermot Lane said the Connors family were well-known and well-respected in the parish but he is disappointed that members of the travelling community appear “not to be party to discussions” regarding survivors’ relocation.

In an interview with Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Father Dermot Lane hit out at a "lack of empathy" when it comes to the plight facing the survivors of the Carrickmines fire.

“Unless we know how to walk in the shoes of the other, we will never make progress.

The scene after the Carrickmines tragedy
The scene after the Carrickmines tragedy
Carrickmines fire disaster scene
People gather at the scene of the tragic fire at Glenmaluck Road, Carrickmines, this morning
The entrance to the car park

“We will continue to perpetuate stereotypes and the culture prejudices that exists. It is only when you have face to face empathy with people that you will make progress.

“In the discussions up until now, it is my impression that the traveller community have not been party to those discussions.

“Until and unless the travelling community and their representatives are in the loop and in the circle of dialogue, progress will not happen.

Father Lane said that looking over the coffins of the remains of Thomas Connors (27) his wife Slyvia (25) and three of their children – Jim (5) Christy (2) and five-month-old Mary “was surreal.

Two of the Connors' children, Michael and Thomas, survived the fire.

“I have never seen anything like it. Two parents with three children. I had never seen a church with five coffins. The grief was palpable. It was disturbing and heart rendering. It was a very hard wrenching experience.”

Mourners at the removal of Thomas, Sylvia, Christopher, Jim and baby Mary Connors, who died in the Carrickmines temporary halting site fire
Mourners at the removal of Thomas, Sylvia, Christopher, Jim and baby Mary Connors, who died in the Carrickmines temporary halting site fire
Mourners light candles in memory of the ‘Carrickmines 10’ who died in the tragedy last weekend
Flowers & messages of support at the scene of a fire which resulted in the deaths of 10 people at a halting site on Glenamuck Road South, Carrickmines, Dublin

Yesterday, a heartbroken message in the books of condolence for the Connors family spoke volumes: "May you have a bed in heaven."

It mirrored the words of a senior priest who spoke out against the inequalities in our society and the failure to provide appropriate housing for the Travelling community, at the removal of five victims of the inferno in Carrickmines.

A young boy broke down in tears as the remains of Thomas Connors (27), his wife Sylvia (25) and three of their children, Jim (5), Christy (2) and five month old baby, Mary, were brought to the Church of the Ascension of the Lord in Ballaly, Co Dublin, ahead of their funeral today.

The couple's two remaining sons, Michael (6) and Thomas Jnr (4) have now been left orphaned and are being cared for by aunts and uncles. Thomas had been injured in the fire and was released from hospital yesterday but did not attend the removal.

Mourners included Thomas' parents, Jim and Jojo, his brothers Jim, Dan and John and sisters Kathleen and Maggie.

Sylvia's brothers John and Ben were also present, together with her sisters Tina, Annamarie, and Caroline.

A tragic claimed the lives of 10 people including pregnant mum Tara Gilbert, her partner Willie Lynch and their two daughters Kelsey and Jodie
A tragic claimed the lives of 10 people including pregnant mum Tara Gilbert, her partner Willie Lynch and their two daughters Kelsey and Jodie

At a prayer service to welcome the remains to the church, Parish Priest Monsignor Dermot Lane said the Connors family were well-known and well-respected in the parish.

Read more: FG colleagues fail to back candidate who opposes Traveller site

"The tragedy has disturbed the conscience of all of us," he said, claiming it had raised "serious questions" about our society and certain questions about the responses or lack of responses "to a variety of reports going back 50 years to the middle of the 1960s"

It came amid the announcement that a new site has been found to accommodate the survivors of the tragic Carrickmines fire, though council chiefs have admitted the location "is not ideal" and lacks "full access to all the basic services".

The temporary arrangement will see the Traveller families accommodated in a council-owned car park beside the Ballyogan Works Depot, close to Carrickmines.

It follows a row between the local authority and residents at Rockville Drive who had mounted a blockade to oppose the use of a field beside their estate to house the 15 survivors until a permanent halting site was refurbished.

Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown County Council has now abandoned that plan.

"The new site is not ideal in that it has not got full access to all the basic services unlike the Rockville Drive site," a council statement said but added staff were "working round the clock" to have it ready by the weekend.

The Southside Travellers group, who have been assisting the families of the bereaved, expressed relief at the news, while a statement on behalf of the Rockville drive estate also expressed satisfaction that the situation had been resolved, saying: "It is our hope that the events of the last week will prompt a considered debate about traveller accommodation across the country."

Irish Independent

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