Two actions over deaths of Bray firefighters settled

Some 25 cases remain outstanding against Wicklow council over fatal fire in 2007

Late Bray firefighter Mark O’Shaughnessy (25), whose brother Eamonn has been offered compensation by Wicklow council. Photograph: family supplied

Late Bray firefighter Mark O’Shaughnessy (25), whose brother Eamonn has been offered compensation by Wicklow council. Photograph: family supplied

 

Two further civil legal actions against Wicklow County Council arising from the September 2007 death of two firefighters in Bray have been settled.

Lawyers for the council have agreed to pay the brother of one of the dead men €22,000 and all costs for his solicitor and barrister, plus meeting the council’s own legal costs.

In the other case, it is understood the council has agreed a compensation claim with former firefighter Brian Monaghan. It will also pay his legal costs, plus its own.

The level of compensation being paid to Mr Monaghan has not been disclosed.

However, a colleague, Ronan O’Sullivan, who went to the blaze with Mr Monaghan and worked alongside him in the burning building, received €100,000 compensation, plus his legal costs, in a settlement agreed last month.

In all, the council faced nearly 30 civil legal actions arising from the fire. It is believed that 25 cases remain outstanding.

The two firefighters who died were Brian Murray (46), a senior and experienced officer, and Mark O’Shaughnessy (25). The blaze broke out in a disused factory at Adelaide Villas in Bray.

A number of firefighters went to the scene, where they deployed a new fire fighting system known as Cafs (compressed air form system) for which they had not been adequately trained. Mr O’Shaughnessy had received no training at all in the system; Mr Murray had attended a demonstration.

*Wicklow County Council were charged with failures leading to the men’s deaths.

During the Garda investigation, members of the county’s fire service management refused to answer more than 1,300 questions put to them, and Mr Sheehy refused to sign his statement to gardaí.

Charges altered

Five days into their trial, the charges were altered to remove the causal link between the council’s failings and the men’s deaths with the result that the council changed its plea to guilty to several health and safety charges.

Civil legal claims by Eamonn O’Shaughnessy, brother of Mark, and by Mr Monaghan, were due to have been heard next week. This will now not happen and it is expected that the case will be struck out.

Sources say that Mr O’Shaughnessy received what in legal slang is known as “tear money”, that is, compensation for the emotional distress of losing his brother.

Mr Monaghan, who was married the weekend after the fire and who did not return to work for the Wicklow fire service after the tragedy, went to the blaze with Mr O’Sullivan and a colleague, Denis Horgan.

Once there, the three donned breathing apparatus and entered the building to search for Mr Murray and Mr O’Shaughnessy.

The men’s bodies were found and Mr Murray’s was removed by Mr O’Sullivan and Mr Horgan. Mr Monaghan exited the building alone, unable to operate in the dense smoke and heat.

“His experience was horrific,” said a former colleague this week.

Of the remaining legal actions, several involve members of the family of Mr Murray, who left a widow and 15 children.

Wicklow County Council declined to comment.

* This article was amended on September 25th, 2020

Apology - Eddie Sheehy

In our edition of October 29th, 2016 in an article headed “Two actions over deaths of brave firefighters settled”, it was wrongly stated that the former Wicklow County Manager, Mr Edward Sheehy, was charged in relation to the deaths. We apologise to Mr Sheehy for the error.