Family despair over delays

Dungiven firefighter,the late Joe McCloskey. 1304SJ1
Dungiven firefighter,the late Joe McCloskey. 1304SJ1

The widow of a Dungiven fireman who lost his life while tackling a blaze in Limavady has spoken of her family’s despair at Stormont bureacracy concerning a motion calling for an independent investigation into his death.

The widow of a Dungiven fireman who lost his life while tackling a blaze in Limavady has spoken of her family’s despair at Stormont bureacracy concerning a motion calling for an independent investigation into his death.

Firefighter Joe McCloskey died in a blaze at the Gorteen Hotel on Halloween night in 2003 after the roof he was working on collapsed. His widow Marie and family have repeatedly called for an independent investigation into the dad-of-five’s death, but earlier this year, the health minister, Edwin Poots confirmed he would not commission such an enquiry.

However, the family said a motion submitted by Sinn Fein earlier this year had given the family fresh hope that their questions about what happened would be answered.

“Time doesn’t make any difference,” said Marie. “Our questions have never been answered and we have gone through all the legal processes and the only option we have left is to call for cross-party support for an independent investigation into Joe’s death.”

The family had been hoping the motion would be taken before the summer recess, but East Derry MLA Cathal O’hOisin said the motion will be re-submitted on the 3rd September.

“That is procedure, as all motions fall during reccess so it would be my intention to re-submit it on 3rd September and hope it will be debated as soon as possible thereafterwards.”

The motion submitted earlier this year by Sinn Fein East Derry MLA, Cathal O’hOisin and fellow party members, Sue Ramsey and Mickey Brady, who sit on the health committee, calls on the Minister of Health “to instigate immediately a full and independent public inquiry into this matter; and further calls for consideration to be given to the establishment of a dedicated Ombudsman’s Office for the Fire and Rescue Service”.

MLA O’hOisin added: “I have met the family on numerous occasions in recent times, including over the summer, and I have also met with the Fire Service and the Fire Brigade Union during the recess. I think the family are well aware they have my support, 100 per cent, and I want to see this matter brought forward at the earliest opportunity.”

Mrs. McCloskey said an independent investigation is the only way the family will receive closure.

“It’s coming up to nine years since Joe’s death, but it only seems like yesterday to us. The pain will never go away, but if we know what happened that night and why it happened it will bring a sense of closure. We are not looking for heads to roll. We just want to know the truth.”

Sinn Fein Colr. Sean McGlinchey hopes the motion will be debated as soon as possible.

“This motion has been in the system from some time, and the family are entitled to this. The time has also come for the establishment of a dedicated Ombudsman for the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service.”