herald

Thursday 8 December 2016

Minister calls for a criminal probe into 'firetrap' controversy

Labour Minister Kevin Humphreys has asked gardai to investigate the Longboat Quay complex (pictured)
Labour Minister Kevin Humphreys has asked gardai to investigate the Longboat Quay complex (pictured)

A government minister has called for a criminal investigation into the Longboat Quay apartment complex in Dublin.

Labour Party TD Kevin Humphreys has formally asked gardai to consider investigating the circumstances surrounding the suspected fire defects.

The Herald has learnt that Mr Humphreys met officers from Pearse Street Station on Saturday and is willing to make a formal complaint if requested to do so.

READ MORE: Council 'can't house Longboat residents'

The Minister for State at the Department of Social Protection has met residents of the complex on a number of occasions in recent days, who he said have been left "deeply distressed".

Fear

"People living there feel frustrated and fear that nobody will be held to account. Residents feel there will be no justice," Mr Humphreys told the Herald.

He said he was told by garda that they will now carry out a "scoping exercise" to establish whether there are grounds for a criminal investigation to be formally launched.

READ MORE: Jim O'Callaghan: Law needs to make building firms liable for defective work

The news comes as Environment Minister Alan Kelly is today scheduled to meet the devastated residents of the firetrap apartment complex as the prospect of evacuation looms.

Mr Kelly has asked his officials to develop a package for residents, who are facing hefty bills to resolve the fire defects.

The residents of Longboat Quay are potentially facing evacuation from their homes and bills of nearly €20,000 to fix the fire-safety deficiencies .

Mr Kelly has blamed insufficient regulation in the past for deficiencies in buildings, like the ones seen at Priory Hall, Millfield Manor and now at Longboat Quay.

A source said the meeting with the residents was due to be a "listening exercise", adding that subsequent meetings with the complex management are expected.

Meanwhile, Dublin Fire Brigade has defended its decision to not serve a fire safety notice on Longboat Quay over a year ago.

A report in May of last year by then senior executive fire officer Donal Casey recommended a notice be served after it identified a dozen issues over the apartment complex in Dublin's Docklands.

Had this been done, it would most likely have resulted in the evacuation of residents. However, the recommendation was not accepted by Chief Fire Officer Pat Fleming and a fire notice was eventually only issued last week.

In a statement, Dublin Fire Brigade defended the decision not to issue the notice sooner.

It said the serving of a fire safety notice was "a serious act which a fire authority uses with discretion".

Instead of moving forward with the notice at the time, the fire brigade sought "to evaluate any other possible issues in the development".

The statement said Mr Fleming "instigated an immediate engagement process with the relevant parties and instructed a full and comprehensive fire risk assessment be carried out on the entire development".

Following agreement on these measures, Mr Fleming decided to defer serving the fire safety notice and residents were informed of this.

"Fire safety consultants were appointed and following consultation with Dublin Fire Brigade, it was agreed that fire marshals were placed on site immediately and an enhanced fire-detection alarm system be installed," the statement said.

"This installation, detectors in every room linked to entrance hallway and on to common system, was completed within a two-month timeframe and considerably reduced the risk in the building.

Schedule

"Furthermore, a full schedule of works was agreed after considerable engagement.

"However, due to the lack of sufficient progress, the Chief Fire Officer decided to issue a fire safety notice. Dublin Fire Brigade is currently awaiting a response from the primary stakeholders in this regard."

The cost of carrying out the work needed to comply with the notice is around €4m. The Dublin Docklands Development Authority and the receiver for the company which built the development have agreed to offer €2.75m towards the works needed, leaving the 600 residents to pick up the rest of the bill.

This proposal has not been accepted by the residents.

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