Friday, 9 May 2014

Accountability and answers needed after damming verdict returned at inquest into the deaths of Bray Firefighters

Wicklow Sinn Féin County Councillor John Brady was welcomed the unanimous decision of the jury at the coroners court who returned narrative verdicts into the deaths of Brian Murray and Mark O’Shaughnessy who died whilst tackling a blaze in Bray on 26th September 2007. The damming verdict of Wicklow County Council was returned after 17 days of evidence, but answers are still needed from senior officials in Wicklow County Council as to why they refused to cooperate fully with the HSA and the Gardaí and why they refused to answer 1300 questions that were put to them.

After the verdict was returned Cllr Brady stated “I fully welcome the Narrative verdict which was unanimously returned by the jury at the inquest into the deaths of Bray firefighters Brian Murray and Mark O’Shaughnessy. After listen to the evidence over 17 long days the coroner allowed them mention the risk factors that caused or contributed to the circumstances relating to the men’s deaths. I still however believe that Senior Officials in the County Council have serious questions to answer around the management, operation and handling of the fire service prior to the men’s deaths and their lack of cooperation in the subsequent Health and Safety Authority and Garda investigations”.

Councillor Brady continued “In 2005 the late Brian Murray and other fire fighters staged a walkout of Bray Fire station; this was an attempt to get series issues of concern in the fire service addressed by Wicklow County Council. On that day in 2005 I was to only councillor to meet the men and listen to their serious concerns. The damming verdict returned by the jury late on Friday, found that Wicklow County council had failed to maintain the vital communications systems in Bray and Greystones fire stations. They further found there was an absence of specific instructions relating to Pre-Determined Attendances (PDAs) as to how fire fighters should respond to a series of given situations. These are just some of the issues that Brian Murray raised with me and senior officials in Wicklow in 2005. These issues were ignored when I raised them at council level and ultimately became contributory factors in the deaths of both Brian Murray and Mark O’Shaughnessy 2 years later”.

Cllr Brady went onto say “The verdict has upheld the good names of both Brian and Mark who paid the ultimate sacrifice whilst serving their community. It has been very difficult sitting in the coroner’s court over 17 days listening to the council trying to effectively blame the 2 men for their own deaths. Both families and I have been vindicated in our views that the men’s deaths were not a tragic accident, but as a result of the systematic failure of the system and those that presided over it in Wicklow County Council. I believe Wicklow County Council must now apologise to the families of Brian and Mark for the men's deaths. It was difficult for the families to listen to the evidence heard at the inquest over the 17 days. It was very detailed and painful for them to relive those terrible days, however it was remarkable to hear that whilst Brian and Mark were lying in the morgue on the day after the fire the County Manager Eddie Sheehy organised a big dinner for himself along with the then Chief Fire officer James Dunphy, Director of Services Bryan Doyle, senior council official Tom Murphy and the Senior Assistant Fire Officers Joanne O'Connor and Tadgh O'Shea in the Druids Glen. It appears that getting their story straight over remorse or compassion was their priority in the aftermath of the mens deaths".

“What we need now is accountability, 2 men are dead and the Wicklow County Manager, Eddie Sheehy, the man that presided over the system that allowed them to die must ultimately be held to account. I believe he had not only failed to cooperate fully into the investigation that led to the need by the Gardaí to raid the County Buildings he has also brought the fire service and Wicklow County Council into disrepute. He needs to explain why he and others arrested as part of the investigation refused to answer over1300 questions that were put to them. The people of Wicklow have no faith or confidence in him nor the remaining Senior Assistant Fire Officers Joanne O’Connor and Tadgh O’Shea who were also arrested and presided over the flawed system that allowed the men to die in 2007. For accountability and confidence to be restored these three need to be immediately removed from their positions” continued Brady

The Sinn Féin councillor concluded “The jury found the Council, following the purchase of a new fire tender in 2007, had failed to follow up “with appropriate training for all firefighting personnel” in the use of the Compressed Air Foam System (CAFs) which was on the new tender. In the case of the death of Mark O’Shaughnessy, the jury held specifically that he had received no CAFs training whatsoever. The Chief Fire officer for Wicklow at the time of the men’s deaths James Dunphy has subsequently retired on what I would imagine is a substantial pension. This is an unbelievable situation that the people that put fire fighters on the front line to tackle serious fires with both hands tied behind their backs and ultimately die are rewarded with golden handshakes. There is something rotten with the system that allows that. We need to learn from the deaths of Brian and Mark and never allow them happen again, people need to be held to account and not rewarded for their incompetence and failures”

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