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Dublin: 0 °C Wednesday 23 January, 2019
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"It begs the question: how serious is the government about Travellers' rights?"

The fallout from the Carrickmines disaster, which claimed 10 lives on Saturday morning, continued this afternoon.

12/10/2015 Book of Condolences Halting Sites Tragedies President Higgins signing the book of condolence at the Mansion House today Source: Leah Farrell/Rollingnews.ie

Updated 6:05pm

THE AFTERMATH OF Saturday’s catastrophic fire in Carrickmines, Co Dublin, has begun to give away to a sense of recrimination this afternoon.

Ten people, all from two interlinked families, lost their lives in the horror blaze at a halting site in the south Dublin suburb in the early hours of Saturday.

As President Michael D Higgins signed the official book of condolence along with his wife Sabina at the Mansion House, the mayor of south County Dublin has said that the tragedy “should come as a wakeup call to local authorities to start prioritising Travellers’ rights”.

“We here in South Dublin County Council were given a zero allocation from the Traveller accommodation fund last year,” Sinn Féin mayor Sarah Holland told TheJournal.ie today.

Improvements to existing halting sites, which were much needed, were paid for out of our Housing Capital Allocation.
I visited one family recently who were all living in the day unit, as financial hardship meant they had no caravan. A mam and four kids were all sleeping on mattresses on the living area floor.
Some families don’t even have this facility, with over 400 living on roadsides and make do sites. It begs the question about how serious the Government is about Travellers’ rights.

Holland further bemoaned the fact that three recommendations from an April 2014 report on Traveller ethnicity (specifically involving state recognition of Travellers’ ethnicity) have yet to be implemented 18 months later.

Meanwhile, the Green Party has today called for the elimination of temporary halting sites for the Traveller community.

“We cannot say hand on heart that a tragedy such as that which happened last weekend will not happen again. There are families living in these tinderboxes all over the State,” said the party’s environments pokesperson councillor Malcolm Noonan.

Elected representatives who have constantly opposed Traveller accommodation citing cost, anti-social behaviour and other issues should carefully reflect on the lessons from this tragedy and consider whether it might have been averted with political leadership.

Earlier

Meanwhile, it earlier emerged that a special bank account and fund is to be set up to aid those rendered bereaved and homeless by the Carrickmines fire tragedy of last Saturday morning.

Speaking to RTE’s Morning Ireland Geraldine Dunne of Southside Travellers Action Group (STAG) said that a specific bank account is to be set up by the St Vincent de Paul.

“The St Vincent de Paul have set up this bank account and details of it will be on their website later today,” she said.

The victims of the fire have now been named as Thomas and Sylvia Connors, their children Jim, Christy and Mary (who was just six-months-old), William Lynch, his partner Tara Gilbert, their children Jodie and Kelsey, and William’s brother Jimmy.

11/10/2015. Scenes At Halting Site Fire In Carrick Source: Rollingnews.ie

11/10/2015. Scenes At Halting Site Fire In Carrick Source: Eamonn Farrell/Rollingnews.ie

11/10/2015. Scenes At Halting Site Fire In Carrick Source: Eamonn Farrell/Rollingnews.ie

Tara was also pregnant at the time of the fire.

The victims, and as many as 15 others, had been living at the temporary halting site on the Glenamuck Road South for the last six years.

Prior to this the families had been living at the side of a road where another tragedy befell them with the loss of a son.

Regarding the fire itself Dunne said “it’s a horrific number that have died, and it’s hard to get your head around it”. She also commended the support being seen from people around the country.

The support from all around the country, there’s no word to describe it, it has been really, really good, from all the agencies, Southside Travellers, the community, the gardaí.

11/10/2015. Scenes At Halting Site Fire In Carrick Source: Eamonn Farrell

Regarding emergency accommodation for those rendered homeless, Dunne said that the county council and STAG are “looking at coming up with the best solution to provide accommodation that will meet the needs of the families in the coming days and months”.

Level of tragedy

Assistant Chief Fire Officer at the scene Dennis Keeley later told the same programme that the fire was the worst he had dealt with in his 30 years with Dublin Fire Brigade.

“I’ve been with Dublin Fire Brigade for 30 years, I’ve unfortunately seen a lot of tragic incidents, but I’ve not seen this scale, this level of tragedy,” he said.

This was at the extreme end of anything I’ve dealt with.

10/10/2015. Fire - Halting Site. Pictured (LTOR) F Dennis Keeley (centre) at the scene of the fire on Saturday, flanked by Fire Officer Gerry Stanley (left) and Dun Laoghaire Chief Garda Superintendent Diarmuid O'Sullivan (right) Source: Rollingnews.ie

Fire services initially responded to the emergency call at 4.25am on Saturday morning with 3 fire tenders (units) and other specialised units, although according to Keeley as soon as they arrived at the scene they realised the scale of the fire was very serious.

There was a difficult and extensive fire scene at play, and a number of distraught family and friends at the scene.

Following deployment of further units, including at least five ambulances, the fire was finally brought under control by 9.20am. Keeley said it was too early to speculate as to the cause of the fire, but that nothing he had seen suggested foul play.

“I think it’s fair to say there was nothing suspicious, and no indications that anything untoward had happened,” he said.

I’m sure that the technical bureau of An Garda Síochána will be keeping an open mind, but as far as we’re concerned there’s nothing pointing in that direction.

Support

Many books of condolence have been opened around Dublin, including one at Dublin’s Mansion House, to allow Dubliners to express their sympathy.

The Southside Traveller Action Group (STAG) and the Irish Traveller Movement lay a wreath at the site of the tragedy, before meeting discussing their fears about fire safety with officials from the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government. 

The group was told that fire services across the country will be “asked to lead a concentrated programme of risk management and fire prevention in those communities most at risk”.   

The Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP) has also opened a special bank account at AIB in Dundrum to accept public donations for the families affected by the fire.

The account details are as follows:

Account number: 16005289

NSC: 93-31-20

BIC: AIBKIE2D

IBAN: IE38AIBK93312016005289

Cheques made payable to ‘SVP Carrickmines Tragedy’ can be alternatively be sent to the Finance Department, SVP East Region, 91-92 Sean McDermott Street, Dublin 1.

Earlier today, SVP members from the St Mary’s Conference in Sandyford and the Rathdown Area attended a meeting with traveller representative groups, the HSE and other agencies to discuss how best to support families involved in the tragedy.

Originally published 8.51am. Additional reporting by Catherine Healy.

Read: Flags to fly at half-mast for victims of Carrickmines fire

Read: ‘All of those young children were just so innocent’

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