Seanad debates

Thursday, 14 December 2017

10:30 am

Photo of Kevin HumphreysKevin Humphreys (Labour) | Oireachtas source

Like many others, I wish the staff a happy Christmas. Judging from the television this morning, it will be a difficult Christmas for people who lost family members in that terrible fire in London. It has been six months since the fire in Grenfell Tower. We remember our own people who were lost in the Stardust fire. Those families have never got over the loss of their children. They raise the matter constantly, and rightly so.

I have sought answers on the issue I am raising this morning. Since the terrible fire in London, the London fire brigade has changed how it deals with high-rise fires. When I say "high-rise", people think of large towers, but they are not. They are six storeys and above. There are many such buildings across the country.

Prior to the Grenfell fire, London fire brigade would send four fire appliances and one high-reach vehicle. In the six months since, it has changed that complement to five appliances and one high-reach vehicle. Why are we only sending three fire appliances and one high-reach vehicle? Following the Grenfell Tower fire, the London fire brigade has ordered new high-reach appliances, which are necessary when one is going above six storeys. There are only three aerial appliances in Dublin, all of which are second-hand and spend more time out of service than in service.

After the fire in London, we carried out a survey in Ireland and found 262 multi-storey buildings with questionable cladding. I have asked a question time and again but have not got an answer - is there a register in each fire brigade station of these buildings' locations? Do our first responders know what they are walking into when the bell rings and they set out in their fire appliances? They could arrive at one of these buildings with questionable cladding that transfers fire rapidly through the building. We would be sending our first responders into those buildings.

When I raised this matter previously, I got no answers. The Minister of State, Deputy Phelan, told me that he would contact his officials and revert to me. I only raised this matter to prevent a tragedy like the one in London from happening in Dublin, Cork, Limerick or Galway. We need action, and I want answers as quickly as possible. I do not want to drag the Minister of State into the House. If we could just get some answers to the questions we raise in this Chamber, it would be helpful. If the Minister of State is not prepared to forward answers, there is no option but to ask him to return to the House, which I will do early in the new year if I do not get those answers.


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