Travellers ‘still face risk from fire’ as families gather to mark one-year anniversary of Carrickmines

Members of the Travelling community are still not safe in their accommodation despite work carried out to improve fire safety, says the Irish Traveller Movement.
Travellers ‘still face risk from fire’ as families gather to mark one-year anniversary of Carrickmines

The comments came as families and Traveller advocacy groups gathered to mark the one-year anniversary of the Carrickmines fire in Dublin.

Following the tragedy, an accommodation assessment was carried out by the National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management (NDFEM).

The audit found 81% of the 2,144 traveller accommodation units inspected did not have a working fire alarm, 83% did not have a working carbon monoxide alarm, and 62% inspected had dangerous electrical installations.

Up to July 1, fire safety had been appraised by local authorities in 95% of the 2,144 units with smoke alarms installed in 77% of units.

Members of the Travelling community at a Mass to commemorate the victims of the Carrickmines halting site fire that claimed 10 lives a year ago, at Holy Redeemer Parish Church in Bray, Co Wicklow. Pic: Gareth Chaney Collins

Members of the Travelling community at a Mass to commemorate the victims of the Carrickmines halting site fire that claimed 10 lives a year ago, at Holy Redeemer Parish Church in Bray, Co Wicklow. Pic: Gareth Chaney Collins

However, the Irish Traveller Movement’s political co-ordinator Jacinta Brack said levels of overcrowding remain a concern.

“According to Department of Housing statistics in the last year alone, there was an increase of 135 Traveller families estimated to be sharing accommodation — accounting for 862 families in the State, or approximately over 4,000 men, women and children.

“Overcrowding stems from the primary fact that local authorities have failed in the provision of Traveller accommodation,” says Ms Brack.

“Travellers on the ground are left waiting and this situation arises,” she said.

Currently, 534 families are living in unofficial, unrecognised and unserved accommodation.

Members of the Travelling community at a Mass to commemorate the victims of the Carrickmines halting site fire that claimed 10 lives a year ago, at Holy Redeemer Parish Church in Bray, Co Wicklow. Pic: Gareth Chaney Collins

Members of the Travelling community at a Mass to commemorate the victims of the Carrickmines halting site fire that claimed 10 lives a year ago, at Holy Redeemer Parish Church in Bray, Co Wicklow. Pic: Gareth Chaney Collins

Ms Brack said the NDFEM report found unofficial and roadside halting sites were most likely to have been missed in the audit, which is a problem because they are most vulnerable to fire.

Meanwhile, speaking during the anniversary Mass for the victims of the fire yesterday Monsignor Dermot Lane said: “As a society and as a Christian community we have a duty to remember the tragedies of the past so that they may not be repeated in the future.

“It is important to keep alive this disturbing memory within society, within local authorities, and among politicians to ensure that a tragedy of this magnitude may never take place again.”

He asked: “Has anything changed in society in our relationships with the Travelling community in the last 12 months?

Amanda Gilbert, who lost her pregnant sister Tara and nieces Jodie and Kelsey in the blaze, is comforted by Monsignor Dermot Lane. Pic: Gareth Chaney Collins

Amanda Gilbert, who lost her pregnant sister Tara and nieces Jodie and Kelsey in the blaze, is comforted by Monsignor Dermot Lane. Pic: Gareth Chaney Collins

“It is so easy for us in the settled community to forget what happened, while the painful reality remains permanently present in the hearts of the grieving families.”

Parish priest of the Travellers, Father Derek Farrell said work was carried out between agencies and services in the wake of the tragedy. But he said “a generous and committed response is needed from all quarters and at all levels — personal, community, Church, and State”.

A silent candlelight vigil organised by Traveller advocacy groups was held outside the Dáil yesterday evening.

After two children laid a wreath at the entrance to the Dáil, 11 candles were lit by representatives from The Irish Traveller Movement, The National Traveller Women’s Forum, Pavee Point Traveller Centre, Minceirs Whiden and Exchange House Ireland to show solidarity to surviving members of the bereaved family.

Those who died on October 10 last were Willy Lynch, aged 25, and Tara Gilbert, aged 27, her daughter Jodie, who was nine, and their daughter Kelsey, four; Thomas, 27, and Sylvia Connors, 30, and their children Jim, 5, Christy, 3, and six-month-old Mary; and Jimmy Lynch, 39.

Tara Gilbert was also four months pregnant.

More in this section

War of Independence Podcast

A special four-part series hosted by Mick Clifford

Available on
www.irishexaminer.com/podcasts

Commemorating 100 years since the War of Independence