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

The family of a Dungiven fireman who lost his life while tackling a blaze in Limavady say an Assembly motion calling for an independent investigation into his death is the only option they have left.

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.

“This is a social issue about a family man who went out to do a day’s work and never came home,” Marie said yesterday.

The health minister, however, confirmed yesterday he would not commission such an enquiry.

Edwin Poots said he had met with the McCloskeys and their solicitor last August, and has since “weighed up carefully all the information provided, including the three investigations into Joe’s death carried out by the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) and the Fire Brigade’s Union, the Health and Safety Executive NI (HSENI) and the PSNI on behalf of the Coroner”.

“None of these investigations provided a definitive conclusion, however, and I am not aware of any new evidence. Furthermore eight years have now elapsed and, taking account of inconsistencies in witness statements at the time, the passage of time will have made it more difficult to recall actual events,” he said in a statement to the ‘Journal’. “I genuinely regret that I have been unable to help the McCloskey family resolve their questions about the death of their husband and father, Joe McCloskey.”

Marie said her family refuse to give up and hope a motion submitted recently will result in paving the way for an independent investigation.

“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 motion submitted by Sinn Fein East Derry MLA Cathal O’hOisin and fellow party members, Sue Ramsey and Mickey Brady, who sit on the health committee, hasn’t been given a date for debate yet.

The motion 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”.

“I hope the motion will be taken before the summer recess,” said Mr. O’hOisin. “There seems to be quite a degree of cross party support for the family and hopefully that manifests itself in the debate and Minister Poots will take on board what people are saying and instigate an independent enquiry.”