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Fire deaths trial moved over jury concerns

A COUNCIL facing charges in connection with the deaths of two of its firemen in a blaze at a disused factory four years ago has successfully argued that the hearing be moved to a court outside the county.

Wicklow County Council requested that the trial be relocated to Dublin Circuit Criminal Court -- claiming it would be difficult to find jurors who had no prior knowledge of the case.

The local authority, as a corporate body, is facing four charges in connection with the deaths of Mark O'Shaughnessy (25) and Brian Murray (46), who were killed as they battled a fire at Adelaide Villas, in Bray, in September 2007.

At the Circuit Criminal Court sitting in Bray yesterday, Mr Justice Michael O'Shea agreed to the council's application to have the trial moved to Dublin.

Barrister for the council, Aileen Donnelly, said that the deaths and subsequent court hearings have generated huge national and local publicity.

She told Mr Justice O'Shea that the funeral of the men had taken place in Bray and said there would be a large amount of people in the area who would know employees of the council and members of the fire service.

Members of the public who will give evidence at trial would also possibly be known by jurors, Ms Donnelly added.

Ms Donnelly claimed the deaths had generated "adverse publicity".

She told the court of a particular recent report in the 'Wicklow Times', which, along with other legal matters concerning Wicklow County Council, included reference to the trial into the death of the firemen.

She said this "effectively amounted to a criticism of Wicklow County Council" and contributed to the difficulties around the trial being heard in Bray.

National coverage of the deaths was "more defused" and would not impact on a Dublin-based trial, said Ms Donnelly.

Tom Murphy, director of corporate services at the council, made a submission to the court in which he claimed there was a "constant barrage" of "negative" newspaper reports about the case.

He said these were particularly acute in the local press.


Ms Donnelly said there were 133 witnesses listed in the book of evidence and said this may increase. She estimated the trial would take around six weeks.

The DPP, represented by solicitor Seamus Boyle and barrister Paul Murray, did not object to the application.

Mr Justice O'Shea said he was satisfied that there was a case to transfer the trial to Dublin.

He adjourned the matter to December 13 at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

In court for the hearing were Mary Murray, the wife of the late Brian Murray, and some of the couple's 15 children. Hazel O'Brien, partner of the late Mark O'Shaughnessy, also attended.

The council is charged with four offences under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005.

Irish Independent