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Saturday 3 December 2016

Horror Carrickmines blaze that left 10 dead 'will happen again'

The scene of the tragic fire at Glenmaluck Road, Carrickmines.
The scene of the tragic fire at Glenmaluck Road, Carrickmines.
Tara Gilbert
Thomas Connors & Sylvia (Lynch) Connors
The joint funeral of Tara Gilbert and her children Jodie and Kelsey
Flowers, messages and toys left at the scene of the fire which resulted in the deaths of 10 people at a halting site on Glenamuck Road South, Carrickmines

A year on from one of the country's worst fire tragedies, which killed 10 people and left three families devastated, a group has warned that a similar incident could occur.

A Travellers rights group has warned there are "other Carrickmines waiting to happen" if the crisis in Traveller accommodation isn't addressed.

A number of vigils will take place around the country today to remember the five adults and five children killed in the devastating blaze that broke out on a temporary halting site in Carrickmines in south Dublin.

Unsafe

Martin Collins, director at Pavee Point, has called for a "huge increase" in funding in Tuesday's Budget for Traveller Accomodation to help avoid another tragedy.

"We still have 1,300 Traveller families - approximately 7,000 or 8,000 people - who are living in sub-standard, unsafe accommodation right across this country," he said.

"We have to fight very hard to make sure that Travellers and Traveller accommodation stays on the agenda.

"If you look at the narrative around the national housing crisis, it is predominately spoken about in relation to settled people, and Travellers have become almost invisible.

"It's an ongoing struggle if you like, but that's what we're faced with," he said.

Pavee Point delivered a pre-Budget submission which raised issues about cuts to health initiatives, early years accommodation and accommodation.

"I know people are focused on Carrickmines because of the terrible tragedy, but there's other Carrickmines out there waiting to happen," Mr Collins said.

The Carrickmines victims included Thomas Connors (27), his wife Sylvia (30) and their three children, Jim (5), Christy (3), and six-month-old baby Mary. Sylvia's brother, Willy Lynch (25), his partner Tara Gilbert (27), who was pregnant at the time of the fire, her daughter Jodie Gilbert (9), and their daughter Kelsey (4) also died in the fire.

Willy and Sylvia's brother Jimmy Lynch (39) also passed away.

"We need a new approach because the present structures are totally ineffective," said Mr Collins

"I see Housing Minister Simon Coveney on the media quite often being very critical and putting pressure on local authorities [about the housing crisis], but I'll be frank - we don't see that kind of enthusiasm and commitment when it comes to Traveller accommodation," he said. "It's a hand-off approach."

Cutbacks

Mr Coveney has not yet visited a halting site since taking over his new brief in May.

Funding for Traveller accommodation plummeted from €35m in 2009 to €5.5m this year - a drop of 84pc.

A spokesman for Mr Coveney said he is "hopeful" of a significant increase in funding for Traveller accommodation in tomorrow's Budget.

"The Minister has sought a substantial increase in funding for Traveller accommodation in 2017, as part of the Estimates process and is hopeful of realising a significant increase on the 2016 capital allocation of €5.5m," he said.

A review of how Traveller accommodation is provided by local authorities is due to be completed by mid-2017.

It follows a fire safety audit that took place this year in the aftermath of the Carrickmines tragedy, which uncovered fire safety failings in more than 80pc of 2,000 units.

No update was available this week on how many of the homes identified with fire-safety issues, such as no smoke alarms, had been rectified since July 2016 when the report was compiled.

As of July 1 however, there were still 380 units which needed a smoke alarm and 525 which needed a carbon monoxide alarm. The department was unable to say whether these had been updated.

They were also unable to state how many of the 451 units at temporary of unofficial sites had been upgraded to permanent sites to date.

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