'Nightmare to Let': Firefighters call for compulsory fire assessments and increased inspection resources

Update 6.25pm:  SIPTU firefighters have renewed their demand for fire assessments in all properties following the extent of the risks in some buildings being highlighted once again in a documentary broadcast on RTE last night.

SIPTU Sector Organiser, Brendan O’Brien, said SIPTU representatives have consistently called for proper robust risk assessments to be conducted nationally, particularly given the safety issues arising from the prevalent ‘self certification’ culture.

"Such robust risk assessments take place in Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom, where they basically ask ‘what is behind the front door’ and identify particular hazards.”

Mr O'Brien was speaking as the deputy chief executive with Dublin City Council said it was currently dealing with 25 cases of overcrowding and substandard conditions in private rented accommodation

SIPTU National Retained Firefighter Committee Chair, Ciaran Scallon,  said that SIPTU repeatedly called for the introduction of an extensive and thorough programme of fire assessments of all properties at meetings of the Fire Services National Oversight and Implementation Group.

"However, these calls have met stiff resistance from the management side, who have recently refused to even carry out a pilot project of fire based risk assessments in Cork, Dublin and Limerick.”

Dublin Fire Brigade Convenor, Shane McGill, said it was clear that the fire risks in cities in particular have changed substantially and the fire service needs to respond accordingly.

"We are now dealing with multi-occupancy dwellings the likes of which have not been seen since the time of the tenements. As shown in the programme, there are many people living in these overcrowded and clearly unsafe units. Adding to the problem is the large amount of combustible material evident in these dwellings. In addition, height restrictions have also been lifted on building in the city, which will lead to more high rise.

SIPTU National Full-time Firefighters Chair, Noel Heaney, concluded by suggetsing that operational fire prevention staffing numbers have not increased since the outcome of the Stardust fire enquiry and urgently need to be increased in order to conduct fire safety inspections of buildings.

"It is time now for the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Eoghan Murphy, to directly intervene and ensure an adequate programme of fire assessments supported by proper resources and investment is introduced immediately.”

Responding to the programme this evening the Social Protection Minister, Regina Doherty, said she wants increased inspection of rental properties.

The Minister Regina Doherty says it was unacceptable to have renters living in such unsafe conditions in the capital.

"People need to be able to be sure they are living in a particular standard of property that at the very least is safe"

Earlier: Dublin Mayor calls for immediate review of housing inspection policies

Dublin’s Lord Mayor has said he is unhappy with the failure of Dublin City Council to respond to inadequate accommodation in the Capital.

His comments comes as an RTE’s Prime Time investigation highlighted dangerous overcrowding at a property in Crumlin.

RTÉ Investigates’ ’Nightmare to Let’, which was six months in the making, showed that in some counties 100% of properties failed inspections and three

multiple occupancy buildings located in Crumlin, Kilmainham and Rathmines, with more than 120 tenants between them have since been closed after inspection by Dublin Fire Brigade.

The programme conteined revelations that Dublin City Council was informed of the risks four times before it responded.

Mícheál Mac Donncha said it was not acceptable.

"That is why I have asked for a detailed report from the Chief executive. It should never be allowed to happen ever again.

"We also have to acknowledge that the inspection regime is not sufficient because we don’t have sufficient inspectors ..."

Meanwhile, reacting to the programme this afternoon Dublin City Councillor Éilis Ryan called for City Council CEO Owen Keegan to resign.

Commenting on the situation, the Workers’ Party councillor said there was absolute clarity that ultimate accountability lay with the CEO.

Cllr Ryan suggested, however, what was of more importance was to finally address the worsening housing crisis which was enabling exploitation of tenants and the establishment of a fund to ensure landlord’s paid for an expanded scheme of inspections, and to fund accommodation for tenants who are evicted due to fire safety issues in their current homes.

“It is essential that regulation and inspection drives up standards in this sector. And equally, it is essential that any tenant who is forced out of their home because of a fire safety notice, has immediate access to alternative suitable accommodation.

“But it must be landlords - not the state or council - who picks up the tab.”

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