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 Header Item Bord na Móna (Continued)
 Header Item Fire Safety

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 966 No. 9

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Deputy Denis Naughten: Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten The new chief executive officer, CEO, must come into place and I will have the same conversation with the new CEO that I had with his predecessors. For me it is a priority to maintain job numbers right across the midlands. I have made that crystal clear. As we transition away from fossil fuels into sustainable forms of fuel, it will remain a priority. That is why I was determined as Minister to establish Bord na Móna BioEnergy, which will probably be the biggest employer of staff across the midland counties in the years to come. I am determined to support the management team in developing that sector of the business. I am sure the CEO will not have a difficulty in meeting Oireachtas Members from right across the region.

The ring-fencing of carbon tax will have to be dealt with by the Minister for Finance and I am sure it is a matter that can be discussed at the finance committee. The company is focused on progressing its plan to develop a sustainable business model that will maximise the number of people it employs not just in County Kildare but right across the midlands and right into County Roscommon and County Galway. Many of my neighbours are seasonal employees with Bord na Móna and I am very conscious of the impacts in this regard. I believe today is the last day of operation of the briquette plant at Littleton in County Tipperary. I want to see the site being explored for new business opportunities. We must keep that in mind when looking at Bord na Móna and the likes of Moneypoint as they transition from traditional fossil fuels. We should be able to put a clear channel in place to bring about a more sustainable future, with sustainable long-term jobs in the vicinity of those plants. I am determined to try to develop this as long as I am a Minister.

Fire Safety

Deputy Seán Haughey: Information on Seán Haughey Zoom on Seán Haughey I congratulate the Dublin Fire Brigade on its bravery, dedication and professionalism in dealing with the major fire at the Metro Hotel at Ballymun last night. It involved 11 units of the Dublin Fire Brigade and 60 firefighters. I also thank the Garda, Dublin City Council and the other first responders on the scene for the work they did. What lessons can be learned from this fire? In particular, what has happened since the horrific Grenfell Tower fire in west London? What area risk assessments have been carried out on high-rise buildings in Dublin and throughout the country since that fire?

It is my understanding that many high-rise buildings, including this hotel which is 15 storeys high, apartment blocks and nursing homes etc., have not yet been given an area risk assessment. This is very serious matter. Cladding was an issue with the Grenfell Tower tragedy but we do not yet know what the position is here yet because assessments have not been carried out in many cases. Buildings may not be conforming to regulations and units in buildings may not be self-contained. If that is the case, the advice given to residents to remain in place in buildings is completely wrong, and they should be evacuated from the building.

There are many grey areas that really need investigation. I understand there was a problem with the lift in the hotel last night, which should also be examined. We need a full investigation into the fire and a full report on the progress of risk assessments of high-rise buildings in Dublin and throughout the country. Dublin Fire Brigade is not getting the resources it needs to do its job effectively and a direct funding mechanism should be put in place for the Dublin Fire Brigade. The Dublin Fire Brigade must be allowed to continue to provide an ambulance service as well, although that matter is separate and I will come back to it.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton Like others I pay tribute in particular to Dublin Fire Brigade and all the other emergency services, including the Garda and Dublin City Council workers. As a result of their efforts, I am thankful that last night's disastrous fire brought no fatalities and, as far as we know so far, no casualties. I find it ironic that as Dublin Fire Brigade is rightly being showered with congratulations about this, it has had a running battle with the city manager for 15 years that has the aim of basically bringing down the standard of employment of firemen, who are experts in the safety of the people of Dublin and other citizens. It also concerns the proposed disbandment of the ambulance service.

Many trendy commentators constantly tell us that Dublin must go up and become high-rise and compact. At the same time we know what happened year after year, particularly during the Celtic tiger. There is the saying that doctors bury their mistakes but developers and contractors could also bury their mistakes in not meeting required fire standards. It is the reality. Everybody knows in this city that where people live in high-rises - I am referring to buildings with four to six storeys, never mind what the trendy people in government want for Dublin, which is 12 to 20 storeys - we are not getting full information about levels of fire safety and conditions and risks in building. There is a separate problem that the Minister will have to address. Last year in my constituency there was a disastrous fire in a block on a Saturday afternoon. I am thankful nobody was injured but the residents will now have to pay to bring the rebuilt buildings up to safety standards.

Deputy Dessie Ellis: Information on Dessie Ellis Zoom on Dessie Ellis Last night I witnessed first-hand the devastating effects of a fire in a high-rise building in Ballymun. I also witnessed the courage of the emergency services, the Dublin Fire Brigade, gardaí and Dublin City Council in responding to the fire. We owe them our deepest gratitude for the courage and fortitude they demonstrated last night. The staff in the building should be thanked for the role they played in helping evacuate the almost 200 people in that building. However, we now need answers to a number of important questions.

How could a fire spread so quickly from floor to floor and apartment to apartment? How did the fire spread not just to apartments above the source of the fire but also to apartments below the source? Why did the fireproofing methods employed in the building not contain the fire to a better extent? What triggered the fire and how was the alarm raised? Were alarms and smoke detectors working on every floor and was every apartment checked? Is it the case that the fire brigade ladder could not reach the higher floors, as seemed to be evident if one was there? There is a serious question about getting proper ladders to reach higher floors. It must be addressed.

People will say it is too early for answers and the Minister will probably say the same thing. These questions must be answered, especially when we consider there are even higher skyscrapers around the city, with more being built. We cannot have a fire service that is under-resourced. There are serious problems with recruitment in the fire service and the equipment being used. This has been raised a number of times. Attempts to remove the ambulance service from the fire brigade have been ongoing for a number of years and it is totally unacceptable. Everybody knows that the first people responding are the ambulance service personnel in the fire brigade. They are always on hand.

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government (Deputy Eoghan Murphy): Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy I thank Deputies for raising this very important matter. A fire broke out in an apartment on the 13th floor of the Metro Hotel and apartment building in Ballymun at approximately 8 p.m. last night, Wednesday, 21 March 2018. The fire extensively damaged the 13th and 10th floors of the building. The building was evacuated successfully and there are no reports of missing persons or injuries at this point. Eleven units of Dublin Fire Brigade, comprising eight fire engines, two aerial appliances and the incident command unit, involving approximately 60 firefighters under the command of the chief fire officer, responded and assisted with evacuation, as well as fighting the fire.

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