On 27 June 2017, following the fire in London’s Grenfell Tower, and in recognition of concerns arising for fire safety in Ireland, I tasked my Department’s National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management with convening and coordinating a high-level Task Force to lead a re-appraisal of fire safety in Ireland.
In addition to this, and in the immediate aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire, I instructed local authorities to undertake a review of fire safety in medium-to-high rise buildings fitted with cladding systems. I asked the Task Force to oversee and report on this initial action, as well as, among other things, reviewing existing arrangements and systems for fire safety and related issues which impact on fire safety in Ireland.
The work of the Task Force has now been completed and it provided me with a full report in May 2018, titled “Fire Safety in Ireland: Report of the Fire Safety Task Force”, which describes its work, its conclusions on the state of fire safety in Ireland and its recommendations for moving forward. I have accepted the Task Force’s recommendations, and I brought its report to Government on 6 June 2018.
Fire authorities were asked to identify medium to high-rise buildings in their functional areas of more than six storeys, or more than 18 metres in height. My Department issued guidance in December 2017 dealing with fire safety assessment of medium-to-high rise buildings with cladding systems, including guidance on fire safety measures to be applied in buildings, pending completion of remedial works to cladding systems, where these are considered necessary. In cases where the buildings identified are fitted with external cladding systems, fire authorities were asked to consider if the use of powers under section 18(6) of the Fire Services Acts 1981 and 2003 – to require the person having control over the building to carry out a fire safety assessment of the premises and provide the assessment to the fire authority – was warranted.
This assessment and follow-up work is on-going and most recent figures provided by fire authorities indicate:
- 838 buildings have been identified, countrywide, at this height,
- 287 of these buildings are fitted with cladding systems,
- fire authorities required fire safety assessments in 219 cases – 102 in residential buildings and 117 in non-residential buildings,
- 138 fire safety assessments have been received by fire authorities; work to complete and report the fire safety assessments in the remaining 81 buildings is underway; from their knowledge, fire services have not determined that any of the remaining buildings merit ceasing of use/ occupation of the buildings in question.
- fire authorities are proposing further action in respect of fire safety in 35 buildings where fire safety concerns – not in all cases related to external cladding – have been identified.
This fire safety and follow-up assessment work is on-going, and is being overseen by fire authorities, who are reporting on progress to the National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management in my Department.
By identifying a small number of buildings, so far, where remedial works were required, the review process undertaken is seen to have had a positive effect and to have made contributions to both enhancing fire safety in medium-to-high rise buildings, and also raising fire safety awareness among owners/ landlords with statutory fire safety responsibilities.
However, the devastating fire at Grenfell Tower highlights the critical importance of fire safety in buildings, and the need for sustained vigilance in this regard. In addition to the review described above, the Task Force report makes a range of recommendations for improvements to fire safety in buildings, and to provision of fire services in Ireland and I have requested the Management Board of the National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management to carry through the recommendations of the report within my direct ambit and to oversee and report on the implementation of other recommendations.
Copies of both the Report and the Summary of Conclusions and Recommendations are available on my Department’s website at the following links:
Fire Safety Task Force Report:
Summary of Conclusions and Recommendations: