herald

Wednesday 7 December 2016

Council's €1.3m spending over deaths of firefighters an 'insult' to their families

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A photo of firemen Mark O'Shaughnessy and Brian Murray at the scene during a memorial service to mark the first anniversary of the tragedy
A photo of firemen Mark O'Shaughnessy and Brian Murray at the scene during a memorial service to mark the first anniversary of the tragedy
Brian Murray
Mark O'Shaughnessy

A COUNCIL found negligent in an investigation relating to the deaths of two firefighters paid out more than €1.3m in fees, fines and other costs, the Herald can reveal.

The money was associated with the case and a subsequent coroner's court proceeding.

Wicklow County Council paid the money following proceedings relating to the deaths of Brian Murray and Mark O'Shaughnessy in September 2007.

The council dramatically changed its plea to guilty nine days into the 2013 trial, following which it was fined €355,000 and ordered to pay €95,793 costs to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The remaining €891,168 was spent on hiring solicitors, barristers, consultants and other services.

The fees have been branded "an insult" to the families of the dead men.

Darren Murphy, a brother-in-law of Brian Murray, said the council's expenses in the case were "an insult to the families".

"Only after already spending a lot of money did they concede any wrongdoing," he said.

A stenography service was paid more than €40,000, while a communications firm was hired for more than €13,000.

A spokesperson for Wicklow County Council told the Herald that its own legal section "did not have the sufficient expertise" in the case and it therefore needed outside help.

The council said it needed advice in criminal prosecutions under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act.

The trial went ahead in Dublin Circuit Criminal Court in June 2013.

Nine days in, the council changed its plea to guilty after the indictment was amended and a fourth and more serious charge implicating it in the firefighters' deaths was removed.

Local councillor John Brady said the expenditure amounted to a "waste of money".

The council said it was "not appropriate to respond".

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