In the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower tragedy of 14 June 2017, and in recognition of fears expressed for fire safety, 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.
Local authorities were directed also to undertake a review of fire safety in multi-storey social housing buildings and also to review fire safety in medium to high rise buildings in their functional areas. The Task Force was requested to oversee and report on these initial actions as well as reviewing existing arrangements and systems for fire safety and related issues which impact on fire safety in Ireland. As it carries out its work, the Task Force is considering information and developments arising from inquiries and reviews in the UK of the Grenfell Tower fire.
This initial work in relation to both multi-storey social housing buildings and medium to high rise buildings has been carried out and all local authorities have reported back to my Department as requested. The Fire Safety Task Force established two sub-groups which have reviewed the returns received.
The returns indicate that multi-storey social housing buildings in Ireland are generally designed, built and equipped appropriately for domestic fire risk, although a number of fire safety issues were identified and followed up.
In the category of medium to high rise buildings (greater than 6 stories or 18 m high), more than 800 buildings were identified through the national survey undertaken. A number of these were identified as having external cladding which gave rise to concerns and in these cases building owners have been required by local authorities, using their powers under the Fire Services Act, to undertake fire safety assessments in these specific buildings. National guidance on further actions in light of the results of these fire safety assessments, taking account of emerging information on the cladding issue from international sources, was prepared by the Task Force Sub-Group and was published by my Department in December 2017. The assessment process in individual buildings, and remediation work where deemed necessary in a small number of buildings, is on-going and may continue for some time.
The intended preparation of an interim report from the Task Force was impacted by a number of severe weather events in late 2017, including ex-Hurricane Ophelia, which required temporary re-prioritising of the National Directorate’s resources. However, the work of the Task Force has now advanced significantly and I expect to be provided with their report in the next few weeks. When I have had time to consider the Report and its recommendations, I will decide on and announce follow-up actions aimed at further enhancing fire safety in Ireland.