Wednesday 21 March 2018

Fire orphan turns seven as survivors move to new site

Geraldine Dunne, from the Southside Travellers Action Group, talking to the media
Geraldine Dunne, from the Southside Travellers Action Group, talking to the media
The scene outside the new site yesterday

Jane O'Faherty

The eldest of two children left orphaned by the Carrickmines tragedy marked his seventh birthday as survivors of the blaze moved on to a new site.

Michael Connors was among 15 family members who ­survived the fatal blaze, which claimed ten lives.

They began to move into new temporary accommodation in South Dublin over the weekend, the day after Michael's parents, Thomas and Sylvia Connors, and his siblings Jim (5), Christy (2) and Mary (five months), were buried in Wexford.

Geraldine Dunne, Director of the Southside Travellers ­Action Group, said relatives and ­community members got ­Michael a birthday cake to ­celebrate his special day on ­Saturday.

"It was a really emotional event for everyone around him and the families and friends and community members," she said.

"He is an orphan and it is really sad to see him celebrate his birthday without the family members there."

The temporary halting site in a car park on Ballyogan Road opened this weekend, two weeks after the inferno which also claimed the lives of Willy Lynch (25), Tara Gilbert (27), who was pregnant; their daughters, Jodie (9) and Kelsey (4); and Willy's brother, Jimmy Lynch (39).

The fire is believed to have started accidentally while the families slept.

Hundreds of members of the Irish Traveller community, including relatives of victims of the Carrickmines fire disaster, will have an audience with Pope Francis today in the Vatican.

A spokesperson for the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin said the meeting has been arranged as part of a much bigger assembly of nomadic people to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the first ever visit by a pontiff to a gypsy camp made when Pope Paul VI travelled to Pomezia on the outskirts of Rome in 1965.

Ms Dunne said the survivors' move back to Dublin following the funerals was an "emotional event".

"As you know, there was one family missing as they came in and it was really an emotional journey back to Dublin for the families yesterday," she said.

Dún Laoghaire/Rathdown County Council previously ­admitted the car park was "not ideal" for the family and did not have full access to full basic services. The local authority purchased three-bedroomed mobile homes for the families, which would be fitted with water and electricity. The site is a 15-minute walk from where the family had been living and does not have a sewerage system.

Ms Dunne said the families were "satisfied" as they were "in the area they want to be in".

"They are satisfied that they are able to come back and stay in Dublin without having to go and move on again tomorrow or the next day," she said.

"We do hope that it is a ­temporary situation and we would be working with the council in the coming weeks and months to ensure that."

Ms Dunne added that there had been no indication of how long the 15 people would be living in the car park.

"The family has the basic needs up there. They have ­electricity, water and they are living in mobile homes," she said. "They are happy with the basic standards for now."

Ms Dunne appealed to public to give the family members ­privacy to grieve in peace.

Another site near Rockville Drive and Glenamuck Drive had originally been earmarked for the family, but was ruled out after protests from residents.

"The Rockville residents didn't help the situation in the last couple of weeks, and we will get to that again and have discussions about that again," said Ms Dunne.

She claimed Irish citizens and agencies needed to "step up" to address urgent issues in relation to accommodation for the Travelling community.

But she thanked local ­businesses in the area, which had offered discounts to ­survivors in the aftermath of the tragedy.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News