A delegation, led by the partners of firemen Mark O’Shaughnessy and Brian Murray, slammed Environment Minister John Gormley and junior minister with responsibility for the fire service Tony Killeen.
Mary Murray, wife of 46-year-old Brian, a father-of-15, said there was “no cover” in the Bray area if a serious incident occurred and that two more firefighters could die attending a blaze. Hazel O’Brien, girlfriend of 25-year-old Mr O’Shaughnessy, accused Mr Gormley of being “woefully out of touch”.
Both women said the service was in a worse condition because it had fewer firefighters — who are part-time — worsening fire equipment and a rising population. “A few weeks ago in Bray, the station’s second appliance, a 1985 truck, had to be replaced because one of its ladders fell off the back while driving down the road,” said Ms O’Brien.
“It could no longer be used. It was replaced with another 1985 truck.”
Loman O’Brien, a retired Bray fire officer and part of the delegation, said in 1983 there were 11 firefighters, serving a population of 19,000 with a response time of six to seven minutes.
He said there were now eight to nine firefighters, serving a population of 35,000 and the response time was now about 12 minutes. He also pointed out the Bray area had 30-40 nursing homes. He said these people would require one-on-one assistance in any fire evacuation.
“There is a ticking timebomb out there. It is going to go off sooner or later.”
The families want an independent inquiry into the incident and the establishment of a National Fire Authority — the recommendation of a government-appointed consultants report six years ago.
Mr Killeen told the committee the authority was still on the agenda but dismissed calls for an independent inquiry until the three current inquiries were completed and it was shown there were deficiencies in them.