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Dublin: 5 °C Sunday 24 March, 2019
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Silent candlelit vigil held outside Leinster House in memory of Carrickmines fire victims

“Have adequate safeguards been installed on halting sites to ensure that nothing like this occurs again?” the priest asked at the memorial service today.

Image: Gráinne Ní Aodha

Updated at 8.15pm

CLOSE TO 200 PEOPLE conducted a silent candlelight vigil this evening outside Leinster House in memory of the 10 people who burned to death on this date last year.

Five adults – one of whom was pregnant – and five children all died when a fire broke out at a Carrickmines halting site on 10 October 2015.

The tragic event shocked the country with thousands of people sending condolences, making donations and attending candlelit vigils.

The fire killed Willie Lynch, his partner Tara Gilbert and their two children Jodie and Kelsey, and Willie’s older brother Jimmy Lynch.

It also claimed the lives of Sylvia Connors, Thomas Connors and their three children Jim (five years), Christy (three years) and Mary (who was only six months old).

IMAG1911 Source: Gráinne Ní Aodha

This evening outside Leinster House, members of the Traveller community and others conducted the candlelight vigil in memory of those who had died.

Wreaths of flowers were laid down outside the gates of Leinster House this evening. Members of the community placed a candle in memory of every person who had in the fire.

An 11th candle was also placed for an unborn child.

Members of family of those who had died comforted each other as they placed their candles. White flowers were also laid for the unborn child.

“One flower representing a baby that wasn’t born, an angel that hasn’t lived,” those placing the flowers said.

As the candles and flowers were laid, people observed complete silence on Leinster Street.

Speaking to reporters at the event, AAA-PBP TD Richard Boyd Barrett criticised the Government in relation to the tragedy, saying that it had “not just failed on traveller accommodation but on the area of housing in general.”

IMAG1916 Source: Gráinne Ní Aodha

Earlier today a memorial service was held to honour the Carrickmines victims – a year to the day since the tragedy occurred.

Waves of incense wafted in through the doors of the curved church as a line of family and friends, followed by three firefighters and five priests, carried 11 candles to the altar of the Church of the Ascension in Balally.

These were to represent each of the lives lost that night: couple Sylvia and Thomas Connors, who were described as ‘a match made in heaven’, and their three children Jim, Christy and Mary.

Candles were also carried to represent the lives of Willie Lynch, his partner Tara Gilbert, their two daughters Jodie and Kelsey, and Willie’s older brother Jimmy Lynch.

The eleventh candle represented the Lynch’s “joyfully anticipated” baby Angel; as Tara was pregnant when the fire occurred.

The service involved a number of moving contributions from children close to the family, including four young boys walking up to the altar to give the offertory gifts – two in grey waistcoats and crisp white shirts, two others in tiny black suit jackets.

In a particularly poignant moment, a teenage relative of the Lynch family read out a poem – but broke down on the line “being without you is the hardest part of all”.

At the end of the service, the congregation sang a hymn together to the accompaniment of a harp. A mass was also celebrated in Bray at 12.30 today.

‘Do this in memory of me’

IMAG1900 Source: Gráinne Ní Aodha

In his homily, Father Derek Farrell said that if this tragedy marked a moment of positive change for the travelling community, it could offer some meaning to the family who had lost their loved ones.

Earlier in the service, a number of “uncomfortable questions” were brought up, to a crowd that included the Minister for Housing Simon Coveney, Sinn Féin Deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald, as well as Green party deputy leader Catherine Martin.

Has anything changed in society in our relationships with the Travelling community in the last 12 months?
Have adequate safeguards been installed on halting sites to ensure that nothing like this occurs again?
Have appropriate support structures been put in place in traveller accommodation so that this kind of tragedy does not happen again?

The fire, which broke out at a Traveller’s halting site on the Glenamuck Road last year, left the members of that community homeless. One year on and the bereaved families are still living in a temporary halting site in a public car park.

An investigation into the safety situation of all halting sites in Ireland found that overcrowding, the lack of fire alarms and the risk of electrocution are just three of many commonplace safety issues present in halting sites.

Love/Hate actor John Connors told TheJournal.ie that “the council was at fault” that the fire started and spread, claiming that Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council broke its own fire regulations by putting the cabins right next to each other.

“They rigged the electricity outside and put it up against trees. They welded shut the fire hydrant two weeks before the fire because they were wasting too much water.

“The fire brigade couldn’t get to the fire hydrant right outside the site and had to go a mile down to plug in which was a loss of three or four minutes where they could actually have saved a life.

Most people don’t know this and guess what? Most people don’t care.

In response to these comments, Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council told TheJournal.ie that Dublin Fire Brigade used a fire hydrant just 50 metres away from the site.

Addressing the claims about fire regulations and electricity wires being put up along trees, it stated:

“DLRCC undertook major refurbishment work on the Glenamuck Road site in April 2015 – including extensive works on the electrical system on the site. All works were carried out by a competent and accredited electrical contractor, were certified and completed to the relevant standards. At no stage were electrical works undertaken by DLRCC or it’s contractors in the manner alleged [by Connors].”

They also said that a working fire hydrant was present near the site, “which was used without impediment by Dublin Fire Brigade on the morning of the incident”, and that the Council is continuing to work with the families to ensure that the temporary accommodation is “comfortable and safe”.

A silent candlelit vigil organised by the Irish Traveller Movement, The National Traveller Women’s Forum, Pavee Point Traveller Centre, Minceirs Whiden and Exchange House Ireland will be held outside the Dáil at 7pm today.

This article has been updated to include Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council’s reply to John Connor’s allegations

Read: One year on: No empathy for families of five children and five adults burned to death

Read: Investigation finds fire risks and widespread overcrowding at Traveller sites

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