Lawyers seek any recordings relating to Bray fire fighter deaths

Brian Murray and Mark O’Shaughnessy died in September 2007

Lawyers for Wicklow County Council are seeking copies of any recordings of telephone conversations made by gardaí or health and safety inspectors concerning the death of two Bray fire fighters on September 26th 2007. But it appears that none exist.

This emerged today during procedural discussions at the Dublin Coroner’s Court prior to a full resumption on Thursday of the inquest into the death of the fire fighters, Brian Murray and Mark O’Shaughnessy.

The court heard that solicitors for the Council wrote recently to both An Garda Síochána and the Health and Safety Authority (HSA), who led separate but related investigations into the men’s deaths, as a result of which the Council pleaded guilty in the criminal courts last year to multiple failings under health and safety at work legislation. The letters concerned possible taping of calls in and out of Bray garda station at the time of the men’s deaths and during subsequent investigations.

The request by the Council followed an early adjournment of the inquest in March after an intervention by the lead garda investigator, Detective Garda Maurice Hickey. At the time, an expert witness for the Council, Michael Slattery, was giving evidence and referring to a photograph showing a tin can, that might have contained flammable liquid, in the debris of the fire which Mr Slattery said he took on September 27th 2007.


Garda Hickey produced a photograph of the same spot, which he said scenes of crimes investigators took in the immediate aftermath of the fire the day before, but in which no tin can was visible.

The difference caused surprise, prompting the coroner to adjourn early, requesting all parties to return this week with an explanation. In discussing yesterday how proceedings would progress on Thursday, the barrister for the Council, Mr Luán Ó Braonáin, SC, said that since the adjournment, “it has emerged that there was wholesale telephone recording” of garda conversations.

“The information that’s available in the media is to the effect that the telephone recording was of garda district headquarters at various locations,” said Mr Ó Braonáin. “Bray garda station was such a headquarters. It would appear that there was digital audio tape recording in being up until, I think, 2008, and that there was a new, updated system put in place in 2008 which recorded all telephone calls.”

He went on to suggest that recordings of calls could relate to “the preservation of the scene, for the examination of the scene, for the arrest of individuals in Wicklow County Council, or searches of Wicklow County Council, for the engagement of experts in relation to inspection of the scene, forensic analysis of the scene, in relation to what caused the fire, [AND] what were the consequences of the fire”.

However, Garda Hickey told the coroner that in 2007, Bray garda station was not a Divisional Headquarters within the Garda Síochána and that recording had only taken place in Divisional Headquarters.

“There would have been no recording facilities in Bray in 2007,” he said.

The lead HSA inspector, Kevin Broderick, told the coroner that the HSA recorded calls to its offices, and callers were informed of this, but recordings were kept for six weeks only.

Nonetheless,Ó Braonáin wanted reassurances.

“If the position is that the HSA are saying that there are no recordings, then perhaps that might be said. And I think similarly, if the position is that the gardaí are saying that there are no recordings, that might also be said.”

“There are no recordings in the Health and Safety Authority,” said Mr Broderick.

Colm Condon, SC, for the family of Mr O’Shaughnessy, said the family was anxious that the inquest deal with an issue, earlier set to one side – that of a note written by Mr O’Shaughnessy and found in his locker after his death. The note should not be “forgotten”, urged Mr Condon.

Mr Ó Braonáin said the note was “quintessentially a piece of hearsay evidence”.

“Perhaps what we might do is look at it and then allow whatever submissions may, or may not be appropriate, be made,” he suggested.

The coroner, Dr Brian Farrell agreed and the inquest proper is set to resume on Thursday.

Peter Murtagh

Peter Murtagh

Peter Murtagh is a contributor to The Irish Times