Wicklow Co Council pleads guilty to breaches of health and safety laws in Bray fire trial

Thursday 20 June 2013 23.33
1 of 4
Mark O'Shaughnessy (L) and Brian Murray died in the blaze in 2007
Mark O'Shaughnessy (L) and Brian Murray died in the blaze in 2007
The local authority had denied four charges of breaching health and safety laws
The local authority had denied four charges of breaching health and safety laws
The fire broke out at a derelict factory in Bray in September 2007
The fire broke out at a derelict factory in Bray in September 2007
Eddie Sheehy expressed regret for the breaches of the laws
Eddie Sheehy expressed regret for the breaches of the laws

Wicklow County Council has pleaded guilty to breaches of health and safety laws in relation to a fire in which two firefighters died almost six years ago.

Brian Murray and Mark O'Shaughnessy died fighting a blaze at a derelict factory in Bray on 26 September 2007.

The local authority had denied four charges of breaching health and safety laws, but the plea was changed after an eight-day trial.

A representative of the council was re-arraigned and pleaded guilty to three charges of failing to ensure the safety of employees, failing to update a safety statement and failing to provide adequate training.

The first charge was amended to exclude a claim that the safety breaches had caused the deaths of the two men.

Another charge of failing to have a risk assessment in place was dropped.

Senior counsel Aileen Donnelly said Wicklow County Council expressed its sincere regret for the breaches.

The trial heard that six firefighters were sent to the incident, but there should have been twice that number.

One firefighter said it was like working on a time bomb and the scene looked like a plane crash.

Others said it was like working in an incinerator, as the intense heat had set their gloves on fire.

There was also harrowing evidence from those who found their colleagues.

Several times during their evidence men broke down in the witness box as they described crawling through the fire to find the bodies of their colleagues inside.

Discharging the jury, Judge Desmond Hogan said it had been a harrowing case for the families of the two men and for the witnesses.

He said the matter had now come to an end. A sentence hearing will be held on 30 July.

Afterwards, a spokesperson for the firefighters, John Kidd, said he hoped lessons would be learned from this.

Local councillor and campaigner John Brady questioned why the county council had let the trial progress for a week before changing its plea.

He said during the trial the families had to re-live the terrible day six years ago.

A spokesperson for the council said it acknowledged there were breaches in a number of systems of work in the operation of fire services between 2005 and 2007.

County Manager Eddie Sheehy expressed sincere regret for those breaches, but said it was important to note that the amended charges reflected the fact that the deaths of the men were not as a result of those breaches.

He again extended "deepest sympathy" to the families of the two men.

In a statement the family and friends of Mr O'Shaughnessy said they had noted Mr Sheehy's comments.

They said: "As legal proceedings are still ongoing, we are restricted from comment at this stage but we look forward to the time when our opinions can be voiced.

"Finally, although no apology from Wicklow County Council has been forthcoming, their late admission of guilt today has moved us closer to a conclusion and for that we are happy."