Wicklow Sinn Féin councillor and long-time campaigner on the fire service John Brady has expressed disappointment at the sentencing of Wicklow County Council in relation to the deaths of fire-fighters Brian Murray and Mark O’Shaughnessy who died fighting a fire in Bray in 2007. He also said that imposing a fine on the taxpayer for the fundamental failures of the Wicklow County Manager is not justice and that the law is and ass that needs to be changed to ensure there is accountability.
Speaking after a fine of €355,000 was handed down to Wicklow County Council in the Dublin Circuit Criminal court councillor Brady said “The last six years have been very difficult for the families of Wicklow fire-fighters Brian Murray and Mark O’Shaughnessy. Both men died tackling a fire in Bray in 2007. I had put my faith in the court system in the hope that the heartbroken families would get some justice. I have never believed that the men’s deaths were a tragic accident, I believed and still do that the men died as a direct result of the antiquated, inefficient and flawed system that Wicklow County Council operated.”
“Unfortunately what we seen in the court was a figure of €355,000 being put on the lives of the two fire men. The fine will ultimately will be paid by the taxpayers of Wicklow. I believe the law is an ass that needs to be changed. The people of Wicklow should not be the ones that are penalised for the failures of the management of Wicklow County Council. The County Manager was aware and presided over an organisation that had no regard for the health of safety of its employees; he also presided and still does over an organisation that vets emergency calls as a cost saving measure. Unfortunately in the court case we had a faceless organisation on trial for health and safety breeches. I would have much preferred to have seen Eddie Sheedy on trial and ultimately held responsible and I think the law needs to be changed to ensure that there is real accountability. At this stage however the families, the people of Wicklow nor I have any faith or trust in Eddie Sheedy and he should be either sacked or resign and I will be tabling an emergency motion and I intend bringing it before the council to ensure that is the case.”
The councillor continued “I must praise the Gardaí and the HSA for the work that they put into this case, however I believe their work was severely hampered by a lack of cooperation by Wicklow County Council. This resulted in the County Buildings being raided by the Gardaí on 23 February 2010. The County Manager Eddie Sheedy was also arrested as part of the investigation into the men’s deaths, as was the now retired chief fire officer Jim Dunphy and the assistant fire officers.”
“I think the courts and the State however have let the families of Brian and Mark down. We should have had a criminal trial of those individuals who presided over the flawed system the council operated at the behest of the State. Shortly after the deaths of Brian and Mark the then Minister for the Environment John Gormely stated that an independent investigation would be looked at when court proceeding concluded. That now needs to happen, as I believe a lot of evidence still needs to come to light.”
Brady concluded “On 9 October 2007, just after the deaths of Brian and Mark the Labour Party tabled a motion in the Dáil relating to their deaths. The motion expressed sympathy to the families of the men; it also called for an independent investigation into their deaths, it went onto call for the full implementation of Farrell Grant Sparks Report on the fire services. Key to this would see the control of the fire services removed from the control of local authorities and put into the remit of a National Fire Authority. The motion which was also supported by Fine Gael also called for the establishment of a full-time fire service in Bray. Sinn Féin and the families supported the motion at the time and I now call on them to follow through as they are now in a position to deliver.” Ends
Statement from families after the sentencing of Wicklow County Council.
"The families are happy to see that legal proceeding of this trial coming to an end as the last six years have been very difficult, during which they received great public support of which they are very grateful for.
While welcoming the eventual guilty plea made by Wicklow County Council in relation to the charges, they were brought as a result of the deaths of Brian Murray and Mark O' Shaughnessy.
They are however disappointed with the leniency shown by the judge in relation to the fines.
But they do welcome the criticism of the management of the fire service in Wicklow.
In relation to the fines, the families do welcome the fact that the taxpayer doesn’t have to pay a hefty fine for the council’s shortcomings.
There are however unanswered questions surrounding the deaths of both Brian and Mark and the families believe that these issues will be addressed during the upcoming inquest and the family will release a more comprehensive statement on completion of the inquest.
The families at this stage do however repeat their call for a national fire service.” Ends
Here is an link to the Dáil debate on 9 October 2007