Detailed safety scrutiny of Celtic Tiger properties urged

Dublin Fire Brigade Siptu members call for full inspection to avoid Grenfell-type tragedy

The remains of Grenfell tower in London after a fire broke out in June 2017, killing 71 people. Photograph: Neil Hall/EPA

The remains of Grenfell tower in London after a fire broke out in June 2017, killing 71 people. Photograph: Neil Hall/EPA

 

Siptu members in Dublin Fire Brigade have called for a full inspection of Celtic Tiger properties following revelations about an audit of 60 apartment blocks which revealed serious fire safety issues.

In a statement on Monday, the Siptu workers said that properties built or extended from around the year 2000 to 2014 should be subject to a full risk assessment “due to the large number of fire-safety issues discovered in a recent survey of apartment blocks constructed during this period”.

On Monday The Irish Times reported that Keenan Property Management (KPM) had found issues in almost all of the 60 apartment blocks it had surveyed in Ireland following the Grenfell tower fire tragedy.

The company, one of the largest property managers in the State, said it found inadequate and outdated fire alarm systems and a lack of fire stopping throughout buildings.

Commenting on the report, Siptu organiser Brendan O’Brien said it was “stark, but unfortunately, not an unexpected finding”.

‘Light-touch regulation’

He commended the company for its approach and said “local authorities need to show the same degree of concern and undertake a similar survey of all commercial, leisure, nursing and hospital buildings constructed or extended during the period when so-called ‘light-touch regulation’ was at its most extreme”.

KPM also criticised the management of apartment complexes through so-called Owners’ Management Companies (OMCs), comprised of residents. These often lacked the skill and expertise needed to deal with serious legacy issues from the boom years, KPM said.

In a statement, the Apartment Owners’ Network (AON) advocacy group said that supports for those OMCs facing defects and fire safety issues needed to be improved.

“They are volunteers, acting in their spare time,” the group said. It called for supports for OMCs along the lines of those offered in Canada and Australia to be introduced, where finances are tested, directors are offered training and the companies are regulated by the government.

Management model

“Ireland needs similar oversight. After all, OMCs are responsible for the stewardship of billions of euro worth of property assets,” it said. “The current model of apartment management doesn’t need to be discarded, it needs reform, before there is an Irish Grenfell.”

Sinn Féin housing spokesman Eoin Ó Broin said he had written to Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy following The Irish Times report and another in the Sunday Business Post, which stated that developers were successful in overturning planning conditions requested by Dublin Fire Brigade 75 per cent of the time.

“We want the Minister to explain why it is that recommendations from the fire brigade aren’t being addressed but also the broader issue of fire safety. Crucially he needs to make it clear that the single most important thing here is fire safety and that is important above all else,” he said.