Irish Government review in wake of Grenfell Tower blaze ‘limited’

Existing fire safety legislation drafted in response to disturbing Stardust tragedy of 1981

The Metropolitan Police have released pictures and video footage of the burnt out remains of Grenfell Tower in London. The footage was taken inside flats where the occupants have been accounted for. Video: Metropolitan Police

 

The Government’s response to the Grenfell Tower disaster has been “very limited” and a wider fire safety review of buildings at risk in Ireland should be ordered, an Oireachtas committee will be told today.

Orla Hegarty, an architect and assistant professor of architecture at University College Dublin, will tell TDs and Senators that hospitals, airports, schools, shopping centres, student housing and hotels need to be examined.

“I have been following the UK response to the Grenfell fire closely. By comparison, the response in Ireland has been very limited. There has been no regulatory change signalled or guidance issued to building designers,” she will say.

Seventy-one people were killed when the blaze engulfed the tower block in Kensington, west London, on June 14th last year.

Latest Irish figures, to be revealed at the hearing, will show fire-safety improvements have yet to be completed at 35 high- and mid-rise buildings identified as at risk. This is up from 19 cited by Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy last month.

“Public safety concerns are legitimate,” Ms Hegarty will tell the joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government which is examining a countrywide fire-safety review.

Stardust tragedy

Ms Hegarty will say current legislation on fire safety – the Building Control Act – was drafted in response to the Stardust nightclub tragedy in Artane, north Dublin, on St Valentine’s Day in 1981, in which 48 people died.

Since then, buildings have become “larger and more complex. Housing is being built more densely; the materials that are being used are becoming lighter, more combustible, more toxic and less forgiving of poor design, unskilled workers and inadequate testing and control system.”

The Stardust and Grenfell blazes were “foreseeable and preventable”. And “it should not take a tragedy to act when the risks are evident and preventable”, Ms Hegarty will say.

Mr Murphy ordered a fire-safety review of 842 buildings last year, following the Grenfell loss of life. It indicated that 291 are fitted with cladding systems. External cladding has been implicated as an accelerant in the Grenfell blaze.

However, Ms Hegarty will say combustible cladding “is only one part of a bigger story”.

Mr Murphy has said the work is ongoing.