THE heartbroken families of two dead firefighters have vowed to continue their "fight for justice" after a local authority admitted failing to protect the safety of their loved ones.
Relatives of Brian Murray (46) and Mark O'Shaughnessy (26) welcomed the decision by Wicklow County Council to plead guilty to breaches of health and safety laws in relation to a blaze in which the men died six years ago.
The council, which now faces fines of up to €3m, expressed its "sincere regret" for the breaches but stopped short of apologising to the two families.
The guilty plea was made on day nine of a highly emotional trial – during which firefighters told of their attempts to save their colleagues at a derelict factory in Bray on September 26, 2007.
"It was a harrowing case for the witnesses who had to relive that most fateful day where their colleagues lost their lives," said Judge Desmond Hogan.
"It was also a harrowing case for the relatives, who sat here each day and had to relive the events as well," he added.
Speaking to the Herald last night, the O'Shaughnessy and Murray families said that their fight for justice continues.
Fiona Murray (24), Brian's daughter, said the family is looking ahead to the sentencing date in July, adding: "It's been a long and difficult five-and-a half-years and we very much welcome this development.
"But we won't give up our fight for justice. The process is far from over," she added.
Meanwhile, Mark O'Shaughnessy's family described the verdict as a "start" but pointed to the fact that the council did not apologise for the deaths.
"Although no apology from Wicklow County Council has been forthcoming, their late admission of guilt today has moved us closer to a conclusion and for that we are happy."
Mark's brother, Eamonn, said: "I don't know how I feel. The verdict is a start but there's an awful long way to go."
Brian Murray was a father of 15 who was remembered at the time of his death as a hardworking, popular man.
His younger colleague, Mark, was described as a kind, quiet and caring young man.
Both families are understood to be considering whether to launch a civil action against the council after the sentencing.
The council admitted failing to ensure there were enough fire engines to fight such a fire and failing to have an adequate central command system to call up fire crews from other stations. They also admitted not providing adequate training in a new compressed air foam system which was used at the blaze and to failing to review an outdated safety statement.
At the conclusion of the trial, Wicklow County Manger Eddie Sheehy said the council accepts there were breaches of the law but they did not lead to the deaths of the two firefighters.