Fire chief who apologised to Manchester Arena victims to head North’s fire service

Peter O’Reilly to take role of North’s new chief fire and rescue officer in September

Belfast-born Peter O’Reilly previously spent two decades working with the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service. Photograph: iStock

Belfast-born Peter O’Reilly previously spent two decades working with the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service. Photograph: iStock

 

A fire service chief who apologised to families of the Manchester Arena bombing for his failings over the response to the attack has been appointed the North’s new chief fire and rescue officer.

Belfast-born Peter O’Reilly, who previously spent two decades working with the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS), was announced in the new role on Friday.

Mr O’Reilly stood down as head of the Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service a number of months after the May 2017 atrocity, in which 22 people were murdered and hundreds injured as they left a concert by pop star Ariana Grande.

At a public inquiry into the bombing, Mr O’Reilly last month told families of the victims that he had “let everyone down” and that fire crews should have been at the scene within four minutes.

Firefighters were not sent to the scene until two hours after the bombing, the inquiry previously heard.

Speaking about his new role, Mr O’Reilly said: “Having started my firefighting career with NIFRS, I am extremely proud to lead it going forward and work with over 1,800 exceptional operational and wider supporting team members as we continue to deliver our prevention and emergency response service to protect our community.”

Announcing the appointment, Stormont Minister of Health Robin Swann said Mr O’Reilly would take up his new position on September 1st.

“With over 25 years of experience within the fire and rescue services, I have no doubt that he will provide the necessary leadership to guide NIFRS into the future,” he said.

Carmel McKinney, chair of the NIFRS board, said: “Peter is a committed and dedicated firefighter who will bring a wealth of operational and strategic experience to the role.”