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'Closure' for family of firefighter Joe McCloskey 13 years after death

By Donna Deeney

Published 14/01/2016

Widow Marie McCloskey
Widow Marie McCloskey
Marie's husband Joe
An excerpt of the letter from the Attorney General

The family of a firefighter who died after falling through the roof of a burning building have finally been told the identity of the man who ordered him on top of the structure.

The Attorney General's office has concluded an 18-month examination of the events that led to the death of Joe McCloskey in 2003, at the request of his widow Marie.

Yesterday the family was told an officer called James Quigg gave the order.

Mr McCloskey, from Dungiven, fell when the roof of an outbuilding at the Gorteen Hotel in Limavady collapsed.

He was rescued from the building but died in Altnagelvin Hospital with his wife Marie at his side. The family launched a campaign to be told the name of the officer 12 years ago. But while admitting negligence, fire chiefs consistently refused to confirm the identity of the man who gave the order.

Eighteen months ago the McCloskeys asked Attorney General John Larkin to examine the case with a view to ordering a second inquest. He told them they had nothing to gain as a key witness had dementia and could not take the stand, but this week they received a letter from his office detailing his findings and identifying Mr Quigg.

The letter stated the Attorney General had decided against another inquest because of the key witness's illness. It read: "The Attorney General is of the view that Mr Quigg ordered Mr McCloskey and a colleague onto the roof. That view is not determinative, but the Attorney hopes that the family may find it of assistance."

The family thanked the Attorney General and said his letter had given them closure.

"These have been 12 years of torture, but we can begin to grieve now that we have the answers we fought so hard to get," Mrs McCloskey told the Belfast Telegraph. "The Fire Service could have spared us these painful years if only they treated us with enough respect to say mistakes were made, but they hid the truth.

"Joe was a fireman with 25 years' service. He was totally dedicated to his job but his life was lost for no reason. There wasn't anyone inside that building - it was already lost - but for some reason Joe was told to go up.

"I'd like the Fire Service to never forget that behind every firefighter is a family. We will never get over our loss. You paint a smile on your face, but there is always an empty chair at the table. The Attorney General has released us from some of the pain."

A Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) spokeswoman said she understood the McCloskeys' pain. "Over the years, NIFRS has done everything that could be expected of us to address the family's concerns," she added.

"This included an internal fire brigade and Fire Brigades Union investigation and full co-operation with the external investigations carried out by the PSNI and the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), as well as implementing the recommendations from the HSE investigation. We also gave evidence at the coroner's inquest in 2007."

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