Belfast Telegraph

Questions over Traveller site safety

MLAs voice sympathy as council reveals fire tragedy scene had been inspected in May

By Jane O'Faherty

Assembly members have joined to voice their shock and sympathy at a Co Dublin fire tragedy in which 10 members of the Travelling community died.

MLAs heard that five of the deceased at the halting site in Carrickmines were under 10 years of age. And they said lessons must be learned from the deaths after the blaze in the early hours of last Saturday.

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness read out the names of the dead and said the inferno raised questions about the safety of people in the Travelling community "given the conditions that some of them choose to live in and, on some occasions, live in as a result of not having the support that they deserve from government authorities".

"It is terribly sad. It is heartbreaking," he said.

The SDLP's John Dallat said: "Sometimes, out of tragedy, something positive might emerge. Perhaps, as the Travelling community arranges the funerals of its loved ones, we can all reflect on how we look upon the Travelling community."

He said this should include becoming part of the campaign to ensure that Travellers' living conditions are improved, whether they are travelling or static; and seriously ask why their mortality rate is poor and why they share so badly in education systems, both North and South.

Alliance's Stewart Dickson said: "It is right and proper that the concern of the Assembly goes out to those in the Republic of Ireland jurisdiction so that they know that we care and that we are responding."

And Green Party leader Steven Agnew added: "It continues to be the case that Travellers are one of the most discriminated against groups in our society. An incident such as this should remind us of the humanity of any individual in any community."

Meanwhile, it has emerged that the halting site at the centre of the tragedy had passed a fire safety check in May.

Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council said Glenamuck Road site was expanded last year to cater for an additional housing unit, and that fire extinguishers on the site had been inspected and serviced every six months. The last inspection took place just five months ago.

Officials from the Republic's Department of the Environment have told Traveller representative groups that a "concentrated programme" of risk management and fire prevention will be carried out in at-risk communities.

The Irish Traveller Movement said Traveller families living on halting sites across the country were worried about fire safety following the tragedy.

The department said that fire services across the country will be asked to conduct a risk assessment on all halting sites, which would include advising residents of possible safety issues.

Dublin Lord Mayor Críona Ní Dhálaigh called for a national audit of halting sites nationwide. "I've called on the city manager to carry out the audit of all our own halting sites, because what we need to learn from this," she said.

Speaking at the opening of the Mansion House's book of condolence for the tragedy, Ms Ní Dhálaigh said: "There's been a huge outpouring of grief and solidarity with the Travelling community following on from the tragic deaths, and this is just an example of it when you see the queue forming here to sign the book of condolences."

She was joined by Irish President Michael D Higgins, who said that he and his wife Sabina wanted to express their sympathy on their own behalf and on behalf of the Irish people.

Belfast Telegraph


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