Monday 24 July 2017

'Priory Hall was only the tip of the iceberg - Ireland has got serious fire safety problems'

Mr Walsh recalled Priory Hall, where the original complex, built in 2007 by developer and former IRA hunger-striker Tom McFeely, was condemned by fire inspectors and evacuated by court order in 2011 as a fire safety hazard. Photo: PA
Mr Walsh recalled Priory Hall, where the original complex, built in 2007 by developer and former IRA hunger-striker Tom McFeely, was condemned by fire inspectors and evacuated by court order in 2011 as a fire safety hazard. Photo: PA

Gavin White

Fire safety problems are "widespread across Ireland", according to a leading building surveyor.

Kevin Hollingsworth, from the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland (SCSI), said it was "distressing" how quickly the fire spread in the London fire disaster.

"We know we've got a lot of problems professionally in the industry here, especially with developments built in the Celtic Tiger period," Mr Hollingsworth told the Irish Independent.

A recent report on building safety from the SCSI made multiple recommendations following findings of "significant defects".

Mr Hollingsworth says one recommendation is a study on high-risk residential buildings, particularly multi-occupancy units built between 2000 and 2008.

"Standards are much higher these days in high-rise buildings with sophisticated sprinkler systems and so forth, but the problem is the implementation of standards.

Emergency services personnel carry a body bag on a stretcher away from the scene. Photo: REUTERS
Emergency services personnel carry a body bag on a stretcher away from the scene. Photo: REUTERS
A firefighter at the scene. Photo: Steve Paston/PA
A firefighter investigates the remains of a flat. Photo: Rick Findler/PA
Resident Michael Paramasivan and daughter Thea Kavanagh (5). Photo: Victoria Jones/PA
A young girl wears a protective face mask near the burning 24 storey residential Grenfell Tower block in Latimer Road, West London. Photo: GETTY
A woman waits for news. Photo: REUTERS/Hannah McKay
A man comforts a boy after the blaze. Photo: REUTERS/Neil Hall
A local resident awaiting news of her friend who was caught up in a fire. Photo: PA
A photo taken by local resident Natalie Oxford shows flames coming from Grenfell Tower. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Smoke rises after a fire engulfed Grenfell Tower. Photo: GETTY

"In the last three months, I have found 29 development units to have been found to be defective," he said.

Mr Hollingsworth said the Government should consider the establishment of an emergency fund to tackle the most urgent and serious building defects.

"There are easy things you can see like a fire alarm not working but there also things under the skin, so to speak, that will prevent the spread of fire from one unit to the next that require regular inspection," he said.

Meanwhile, CJ Walsh, an architect, fire engineer and consultant with An Bord Pleanála, said the London fire was "not unprecedented", as he has seen similar have happened around the world.

"We are following regulations led from England and Wales and my real concern here is there will be an inquiry into this and by the time the results have come out, everyone will have forgotten about it," he said.

Mr Walsh recalled Priory Hall, where the original complex, built in 2007 by developer and former IRA hunger-striker Tom McFeely, was condemned by fire inspectors and evacuated by court order in 2011 as a fire safety hazard.

"We have got serious problems that I've spotted around and Priory Hall was only the tip of the iceberg.

"We need quality building control that doesn't focus on table work but on actual building experience, which nobody is paying much attention to," he said.

"The ghost of the Stardust disaster is still around and people still don't know what fully happened there."

Brendan Stamp, managing director with Guardian Fire, said the London disaster "highlights the importance of properly functioning fire safety regulations".

"It shows the need for a proper functioning system regularly checked by what we call in the industry a competent person. It's a tragedy when you see things like this happen and it's the reason we uphold the regulations that we have to keep," he said.

Irish Independent

Promoted articles

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News