Statement by Minister Eoghan Murphy: Grenfell Tragedy – A stark reminder of the importance of fire safety

Published on Friday, 16 Jun 2017
Minister Eoghan Murphy

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Eoghan Murphy TD, has offered sympathy to the people of London affected by the tragic fire on Wednesday morning at Grenfell Tower.  Minister Murphy stated that the tragedy was a reminder of the dangers which fire can pose in society and he highlighted the need for vigilance at all times in relation to fire safety. The Minister’s statement follows on from the Taoiseach’s discussion yesterday with Prime Minister Theresa May, during which he offered his sympathies on behalf of the Government and Irish people.

While noting that local authorities across the State already monitor fire safety measures in their multi-storey social housing flats and apartments, under their statutory obligations and that a lot of good work is already being done in respect of maintaining the highest standards and controls in relation to fire safety generally, with no known immediate cause for concern, the Minister has put in place the following actions to ensure that every step is being taken to protect lives:

  1. Minister Murphy met with Dublin’s Chief Fire Officer earlier today (16 June) to discuss fire safety and life safety issues in light of the London tragedy.  He intends to continue this dialogue over the coming days and weeks with all Chief Fire Officers across the country.
  2. He also requested that the management board of the National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management (NDFEM) convene and assess the readiness of the fire authorities to respond to emergencies.
  3. Each local authority has been requested, as a matter of urgency, to review their multi-storey social housing units to ensure that all early warning systems, including alarm and detection systems and means of escape including corridors, stairways and emergency exits are fully functional and in place. Life safety must be our first concern.
  4. In terms of raising awareness across landlords, including landlords of households in receipt of social housing supports and rental assistance, the Residential Tenancies Board have been asked to notify all landlords of their responsibilities and obligations as landlords in terms of ensuring that their properties fully comply with fire safety requirements. The Minister will continue to liaise with the RTB on this specific matter.
  5. Finally, in order to remind builders, assigned certifiers, designers and owners of their obligations in relation to compliance with the Building Regulations, I have requested that a notification be issued to all registered users (approx. 52,000) through the Building Control Management System (BCMS).

Although there are no apartment blocks in Ireland comparable to Grenfell Tower, all householders, regardless of the type of accommodation they live in, are urged to take the basic but most effective fire safety precaution of ensuring that their family’s home is protected with working fire alarms. “These simple devices are readily available and are now present in more than 90% of residences”, the Minister said. “I urge all householders to check regularly that they are working effectively.

The Minister has urged local authority Chief Executives to ensure that the progress made by local authority fire services in Community Fire Safety and Pre-Incident Planning in recent years is built upon in the months ahead.  “There is no doubt that the greater awareness of the dangers of fire and the presence of fire alarms in so many homes has helped to reduce the annual toll of fatalities due to fire to record lows in recent years.  But we can never be complacent.”

Minister Murphy also emphasised the fire safety responsibilities of management companies more generally in control of multi-occupancy buildings and urged them to satisfy themselves   that the arrangements in place are appropriate and safe.  “All residents should be checking their fire alarms, their evacuation plans and should be working closely with their respective management companies on issues arising.”

“What has happened in Grenfell, London is a continuing tragedy”, the Minister concluded. “The Taoiseach has expressed his condolences on behalf of the Government and the Irish people.  It will take some time before we know exactly why this has happened, but as Minister with responsibility for fire services and building standards, one of my first priorities is to take immediate and comprehensive action to ensure life safety for all citizens living in flats and apartments here in Ireland. This will continue to be a key priority for me over the coming period.”