There has been an overwhelmingly negative reaction to the publication of a long-awaited report into fire safety which had been expected to address specific concerns about construction methods during the boom years, writes
The Framework for Enhancing Fire Safety In Dwellings Where Concerns Arise was commissioned in September 2015 on foot of a devastating fire in Newbridge, Co Kildare, which gave rise to major concerns about timber frame construction.
The framework, which was published yesterday, was also to have included a report into the fire in Newbridge, but this has been redacted.
The 24-page document that was published largely restates existing regulations and offers advice on how to prevent fires. There is no mention of concerns about timber frame construction, which accounted for up to 30% of homes built between 2000 and 2008.
Since the Newbridge fire, concerns about fire safety in timber frame homes have come to light in estates in Dublin, Waterford, and Meath.
A statement issued by the residents’ group in Millfield Manor in Newbridge described the report as “a whitewash and insulting to the residents”.
The residents of the estate, where six houses burned to the ground in 25 minutes, had allowed their homes to be surveyed as part of the framework review.
“The division of the terms of reference into two separated reports is a betrayal of the Newbridge estate,” the group said.
“The advice contained in the published report is minimalist and a generic risk assessment and not the serious review that was promised to the Millfield residents.”
The residents were briefed about the report ahead of its publication yesterday by the chair of the group which compiled it, former Cork county manager Martin O’Riordan. They are understood to have voiced strong objections to him and informed him that they had been given the impression that the report would be addressing the structural and construction dangers that may have led to the fire in their estate.
Labour TD Alan Kelly, who commissioned the report when he was environment minister, told the Irish Examiner that the “report out today is simply not what I commissioned. It’s not in accordance with the terms of reference.
“The case study in relation to Newbridge was to be a key component. It was the example we were using as a case study to inform us about deficiencies in relation to timber frame houses across the country. This case study has not been made public and to me that is shocking and puts into question the report in its entity.”
Social Democrats councillor for Dublin Fingal Cian O’Callaghan, who has consistently raised concerns about fire safety issues in construction, said the report “spectacularly fails to address the very serious risks in homes faced with fire safety defects”.
He said: “The department sat on this report for months and now that it is finally released it turns out to be a damp squib in terms of addressing the very serious problems that many homeowners face in dwellings where fire risks have been identified.
“Over the last number of years, the rapid spread of fire and smoke in several timber frame estates has demonstrated the lack of fire-stopping measures. The report fails to even mention timber frame estates, let alone provide practical solutions for addressing this problem.”
Mystery surrounds the delay in publication for over a year. A number of different reasons were given by the Department of Housing for the delay, including that the report was being examined by the Attorney General.
Freedom of Information requests were denied.
This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner.