Independent inquiry into death of Dungiven fireman ‘inevitable’ - MLA

Joe McCloskey
Joe McCloskey

An independent inquiry into the death of Dungiven fireman, Joe McCloskey, who died after falling through the roof of a burning building is “inevitable”, SDLP MLA John Dallat has said.

Joe McCloskey (50) died in a blaze at the Gorteen House Hotel, Limavady, on Hallowe’en night 2003.

He died in a storeroom at the hotel after the roof he was working on collapsed, dropping him into the flames below.

The father-of-five suffered burns to 95% of his body.

The Northern Ireland Fire Service (NIFRS) carried out an investigation but failed to establish who gave the order for Mr McCloskey to go on to the roof and nobody was ever disciplined.

Since his death, his family have campaigned tirelessly to find out who gave the instruction. At an inquest in 2007, there were contradictory accounts about who was responsible.

SDLP MLA John Dallat

SDLP MLA John Dallat

The Attorney General’s office has now concluded an 18-month examination of the events that led to Mr McCloskey’s death, at the requestof his widow Marie.

Last week, the family was told an officer called James Quigg is believed to have given the order.

Marie, said the Attorney General’s letter means “after 12 years of torture, we can begin to grieve now that we have the answers we fought so hard to get”.

“The Fire Service could have spared us these painful years if only they treated us with enough respect to say mistakes were made, but they hid the truth,” said Mrs McCloskey.

Regrettably no independent inquiry was ordered into the death of Joe McCloskey. I now believe that this is inevitable.

SDLP MLA John Dallat

“Joe was a fireman with 25 years’ service. He was totally dedicated to his job but his life was lost for no reason. There wasn’t anyone inside that building - it was already lost - but for some reason Joe was told to go up. I’d like the Fire Service to never forget that behind every firefighter is a family. We will never get over our loss. You paint a smile on your face, but there is always an empty chair at the table. The Attorney General has released us from some of the pain.”

Mr Dallat, speaking following a Stormont debate at Stormont on Monday, said he believed an independent inquiry is “inevitable”.

“The McCloskey’s have campaigned for 13 years for an independent inquiry into the circumstances during which a loving husband and father died. Regrettably no independent inquiry was ordered into the death of Joe McCloskey. I now believe that this is inevitable. I have also written to the Fire Brigade Union calling for their unqualified backing for an independent inquiry and I have also written to the Interim Chief Fire Officer, Dale Harding telling him that this matter is now much too serious for him to dismiss calls without taking the matter to the full board of the Fire and Rescue Service and affording the McCloskey Family their right to justice.”

A Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) spokeswoman said last week she understood the McCloskeys’ pain.

“Over the years, NIFRS has done everything that could be expected of us to address the family’s concerns,” she added.