Thursday 22 March 2018

Council asks judge to drop €3m fine after deaths

Declan Brennan

A CASH-strapped council has pleaded with a judge not to hit it with a €3m fine for health and safety violations after the deaths of two firefighters.

Fire officers Brian Murray (46) and Mark O'Shaughnessy (26) died fighting a blaze at a disused ink factory at Adelaide Villas in Bray on September 26, 2007.

Last month, Wicklow County Council pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to three charges of health and safety breaches.

The plea came in the middle of a trial, and after the State dropped a charge alleging that one of these breaches had caused the deaths of the two men. Yesterday Aileen Donnelly, defending the local authority, said that because this charge had been dropped, the court should approach the penalty as if the deaths did not occur.

Ms Donnelly asked the court to accept that these were not deliberate breaches, and that the council regretted them and had remedied them since the fatal fire.

She said that Wicklow County Council had a duty to provide services to the county, and that since 2008 its 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 penalty under health and safety law was a fine of €3m but she said this fine was there for major multi-national companies as a deterrence. She asked that the council should not be penalised to the point that it could not pay.

After a two-hour hearing Judge Desmond Hogan said he needed time to consider the matter and adjourned until October 25.

Earlier, Judge Hogan had called it a case "charged with emotion".

"It was a harrowing case for the witnesses who had to relive that most fateful day where two of their colleagues lost their lives," he said.

"It was also a harrowing case for the relatives who sat here each day and had to relive the events as well."

Irish Independent

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