Catholic Church

Recent Fatal Fire at a Disabled Workshop in SW Germany

2012-11-28:  On Monday last, 26 November 2012 … Fire broke out at a Sheltered Workshop for People with Activity Limitations, located in the small municipality of  Titisee-Neustadt, south-western Germany … not too far from the borders of France and Switzerland.  It was approximately 14.00 hrs in the afternoon … in broad daylight.

German news reports put the death toll at 14 People, including 1 Carer … with 10 People injured.

News reports also state that it took 2 Hours for Firefighters to bring this incident under control.  At the time that Photograph 1, below, was taken … smoke had spread throughout a major part of the building.

Viewers should look closely at the top of the external staircase … then, ask yourselves how any person with an activity limitation can be safely rescued, or assisted to evacuate, by means of a ladder (obscured, at the end of the building on the left) … and, finally, notice the positioning of fire hoses on the ground and on the staircase … some of the many issues which have been discussed extensively here before …

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

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2005 NIST(USA) Final Report on 9-11 World Trade Center 1 & 2 Tower Collapses

–  Recommendation  #17b  –

 To the degree possible, people with activity limitations should be provided with a means for self-evacuation in the event of a building emergency.  Current strategies (and law) generally require these people to shelter-in-place and await assistance.  New procedures, which provide redundancy in the event that the fire warden system or co-worker assistance (e.g. the buddy system) fail, should consider full building evacuation, and may include use of fire-protected and structurally hardened elevators, motorized evacuation technology, and dedicated communication technologies.

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At the heart of the impressive show of fire fighting equipment and technology … and the usual reassuring statements by local officials and other people in authority after the event … there is an equally impressive lie …

Photograph by Patrick Seeger(dpa). Click to enlarge.

Photograph by Patrick Seeger(dpa). Click to enlarge.

Current Building Codes and Regulations, Fire Safety Standards, Building Design Practices, and Building Management Procedures … do not seriously consider the safety of People with Activity Limitations … not properly – not adequately – not even INadequately.  Tokenism is the best offer available in just a few European countries.

Photograph by Patrick Seeger(dpa). Click to enlarge.

Photograph by Patrick Seeger(dpa). Click to enlarge.

According to Spiegel OnLine International …

The rescue was difficult because some people panicked, said Local Fire Chief Alexander Widmaier.  “We are dealing here with people who naturally do not respond rationally”, he said.

IF this is an accurate news report, and bearing in mind that it is also a translation … I SAY …

Let us be generous and kind … Local Fire Chief Alexander Widmaier has NO awareness or understanding of People with Activity Limitations and the daily challenges they face in moving around and using a built environment which is inaccessible and unsafe.

According to AFP OnLine …

Gotthard Benitz, of the Titisee-Neustadt fire service, told AFP earlier that the fire began on the ground floor of the building which also had a basement and an upper floor.

“The victims were all on the same floor where the fire was”, he said adding this was the only area to have sustained fire damage and the stairwell had remained smoke-free meaning those on the other two floors had been able to use it.

He also said firefighters were prepared for dealing with an emergency at the workshop as practice fire alarms were regularly carried out there, with the last one having been last year.

The head of Caritas in Germany, Peter Neher, told ZDF public television that emergency practice drills were done regularly.

IF this is an accurate news report, and bearing in mind that it is also a translation … I SAY …

Gotthard Benitz should also look at the top of the external staircase in Photograph 1 above.  IF there are no circulation hazards, e.g. ice, or obstacles, e.g. fire hoses … able-bodied people can easily go up or down a staircase … people who use wheelchairs or other mobility-aid devices cannot.

In their respective positions of responsibility … Gotthard Benitz and Peter Neher should both understand that all building occupants must be facilitated in acquiring the skill of evacuation to a ‘place of safety’, by way of a safe and accessible route.  An emergency practice drill, although carried out regularly once a year … is ENTIRELY inadequate … and will achieve Very Little.

Skill:  The ability of a person – resulting from training and regular practice – to carry out complex, well-organized patterns of behaviour efficiently and adaptively, in order to achieve some end or goal.

Standard fire evacuation training and practice drill procedures must be adapted to the individual-specific abilities of People with Activity Limitations.

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BUT … the new International Standard ISO 21542 is a very small step in the right direction.  See yesterday’s post.

This situation will only improve to a significant degree, however, when People with Activity Limitations, and their Representative Organizations, begin to act decisively, in unison, and with serious intent …

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Self-Protection from Fire in Buildings – Personal Check List for People with Activity Limitations

1.     Upgrade ‘My’ understanding of Accessibility

Ease of independent approach, entry, egress, evacuation and/or use of a building and its services and facilities, by all of the building’s potential users – with an assurance of individual Health, Safety and Welfare during the course of those activities ;

2.     Be assertive (not aggressive) with regard to ‘My’ own self-protection in emergency situations ;

3.     Concerning ‘My’ safety … demand that Building Management actively engages in Meaningful Consultation – and receives your Informed Consent ;

4.     Become familiar with the Fire Defence Plan for the building, and know ‘My’ part well ;

5.     Practice – practice – practice … become skilled in evacuation to a Place of Safety ;

6.     Become involved, and participate directly in the Building’s Safety Procedures.

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Self-Protection from Fire in Buildings  – Must-Do List for Representative Organizations & Groups

1.     Upgrade ‘Our’ understanding of Accessibility in a Social Context, its Current Vocabulary, and its Complexity … groups of individuals wish to socialize together … this is now, afterall, a recognised human and social right !

Ease of independent approach, entry, egress, evacuation and/or use of a building and its services and facilities, by all of the building’s potential users – with an assurance of individual Health, Safety and Welfare, and group Wellbeing, during the course of those activities ;

2.     Be assertive (and aggressive) with regard to the availability of proper Data and Statistics – we must clearly identify ‘Our’ problem with the many restrictions placed on our participation in local communities ;

3.     Produce a working statement of an Individual’s Rights – on 1 Page (!) ;

4.     Issue clear guidelines on Reliable Advocacy ;

5.     Become involved, and participate directly in the improvement of Building Codes and Regulations, Fire Safety Standards, Building Design Practices, and Building Management Procedures ;

6.      Demand resources to Monitor ‘Effective’ Implementation … and Target Relevant and ‘Practical’ Research.

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Murphy Commission Report on Child Sexual Abuse in Dublin

2009-11-30:  The Dublin Archdiocese (Murphy) Commission of Investigation was established to report on the handling by Church and State Authorities of a representative sample of allegations and suspicions of child sexual abuse against clerics operating under the aegis of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin during the period 1975 to 2004.

The Commission, which continues its investigations, is chaired by Judge Yvonne Murphy.  There are two other members of the Commission: Ms. Ita Mangan and Mr. Hugh O’Neill.

The Dublin Report (the first of many ?) … was submitted to Mr. Dermot Ahern T.D., Minister for Justice, Equality & Law Reform on 21st July 2009.

Dublin Report Paragraph #1.113 (Page 28) – Conclusion

‘ The Commission has no doubt that clerical child sexual abuse was covered up by the Archdiocese of Dublin and other Church Authorities over much of the period covered by the Commission’s remit.  The structures and rules of the Catholic Church facilitated that cover-up.  The State Authorities facilitated the cover up by not fulfilling their responsibilities to ensure that the law was applied equally to all and allowing the Church Institutions to be beyond the reach of the normal law enforcement processes.  The welfare of children, which should have been the first priority, was not even a factor to be considered in the early stages.  Instead the focus was on the avoidance of scandal and the preservation of the good name, status and assets of the Institution and of what the Institution regarded as its most important members – the priests.  In the mid 1990s, a light began to be shone on the scandal and the cover up.  Gradually, the story has unfolded.  It is the responsibility of the State to ensure that no similar Institutional immunity is ever allowed to occur again.  This can be ensured only if all Institutions are open to scrutiny and not accorded an exempted status by any organs of the State.’

The Department of Justice, Equality & Law Reform has been very sloppy in the manner that it has presented the Dublin Report on the Department’s WebSite.  For your convenience, therefore, the Full Original Report is presented here as a single PDF File …

Date of Original Report: 21 July 2009.  PDF File, 3.98 Mb.

Murphy Commission Report on Child Sexual Abuse in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin

Click the Link Above to read and/or download the Full Original Report

December 2010

Murphy Commission Report: Tony Walsh – ‘Fr Jovito’ – Portions

Click the Link Above to read and/or download PDF File (155 kb)

July 2013

Murphy Commission Report: ‘Patrick McCabe’ Redacted Material (Chapter 20 – Pages 1-10 Only)

Click the Link Above to read and/or download PDF File (2.2 MB)

Important Note:  The Full Chapter 20 PDF File, with the ‘Patrick McCabe’ Redacted Material … recently re-issued on 12 July 2013 … has 99 Pages and weighs in at a whopping 19.31 MB !   It can be downloaded from the Department of Justice & Equality WebSite … http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/PB13000293

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Those Individuals … whether members of Church or State Authorities … who have been named and shamed in the Dublin Report … or who will be named and shamed in connection with the Dublin Report … must resign, and be brought to justice.

If our ‘State’ is serious about the Protection of Children … Ireland must NOW fully and effectively implement the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child … which entered into force, i.e. became an International Legal Instrument, on 2nd September 1990.  LATER is no longer acceptable !

This is a fundamental foundation for a Comprehensive National Framework of Child Protection Related Legislation, Standards and Guidance Documents, with the necessary accompanying Administrative Provisions and Monitoring Measures.

1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child

 Click the Link Above to read and/or download the UN Convention (PDF File, 112kb)

Of much interest … the VIENNA DECLARATION AND PROGRAMME OF ACTION, adopted by the World Conference on Human Rights on 25th June 1993, stated …

‘ The World Conference on Human Rights, welcoming the early ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by a large number of States … urges universal ratification of the Convention by 1995 and its effective implementation by States Parties through the adoption of all the necessary legislative, administrative and other measures and the allocation to the maximum extent of the available resources … ‘

Ireland signed the Convention on 30th September 1990 … and ratified the Convention on 28th September 1992.

As of today’s update, 16th July 2011, Ireland has still not properly implemented the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

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Update 2011-07-16 … one more recently published report !!

Commission of Investigation – December 2010

Report into the Catholic Diocese of Cloyne

Click the Link Above to read and/or download PDF File (2.37 Mb)

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POSTSCRIPT

2011-10-09:  The Irish Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Ms. Frances Fitzgerald T.D., launched the Amnesty Ireland Report: ‘In Plain Sight’ in the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA), 15 Ely Place, Dublin … on the morning of 26 September 2011.  The research for this report was undertaken by Dr. Carole Holohan, and the report was commissioned by Amnesty International Ireland.

Key Findings of Amnesty’s ‘In Plain Sight’ Report (2011)

This report has five key findings …

     1.  No clear lines of responsibility make true accountability impossible.

This report demonstrates how the absence of clear lines of public and private responsibility in the provision of services, along with the absence of effective accountability mechanisms, allowed the abuse of children to continue unchecked.  In the case of residential institutions, it wasn’t that the system didn’t work but rather that there was no system.  While both the perpetrators of crimes against children, and the institutional Church within which they operated, hold responsibility for this abuse, State authorities also failed in their duty to monitor residential institutions effectively, to act appropriately when abuses by agents of the Catholic Church in communities came to light, and to take action to prevent the continuation of abuse.

     2.  The law must protect and apply to all members of society equally.

The Reports on child abuse highlight how the law did not serve or apply to all members of Irish society equally.  The most obvious example of this is how children who were placed in residential institutions were branded as criminals as a result of the court committal process, while the majority of perpetrators of abuse have not been held to account by that same criminal justice system.  Despite the severity of the crimes revealed in the Ferns, Ryan, Murphy (Dublin) and Cloyne Reports, which range from physical assault to rape, very few perpetrators have been convicted.  Furthermore, no criminal charge has been laid against those in positions of authority in the Catholic Church who concealed crimes against children and allowed known sex abusers to continue to have access to children and to continue to abuse with near impunity.  The Reports raise serious questions about the rule of law, given the evidence of deferential treatment shown to priests and bishops by members of the Gardaí.

     3.  Recognition of children’s human rights must be strengthened.

This report includes a human rights analysis of the abuses detailed in the Ferns, Ryan, Murphy (Dublin) and Cloyne Reports.  The sexual abuse in the diocesan reports, and the sexual, physical and emotional abuse, the living conditions, and the neglect described in the Ryan Report, can be categorised as torture, and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment under human rights law.  The Reports also demonstrate that children’s rights to private and family life, the right to a fair trial and the right to be free from slavery and forced labour were contravened, as was their right to education and to physical and mental health.  The invisibility of children in law, policy and public debate is directly related to the fact that children do not have express constitutional rights.  It is essential that the rights of the child be made explicit in the Irish Constitution and that the paramount importance of the rights of the child be explicitly enshrined in law.

Children do not represent a homogenous social category and children from different subsections of society have very different experiences.  The majority of children in industrial schools were placed there as a direct result of the poverty of their families.  We must not ‘other’ any groups of children.  Particularly vulnerable groups of children today include children in care, Traveller children, children in the criminal justice system, children with mental health problems, children experiencing homelessness, children living in poverty, and asylum-seeking children.

     4.  Public attitudes matter – Individual attitudes matter.

The Reports identify the impact of deference to the Catholic Church on how people responded to abuse and suspicions of abuse.  Fear, an unwillingness and an inability to question agents of the Church, and disbelief of the testimony of victims until recent times indicate that wider societal attitudes had a significant role to play in allowing abuse to continue.  The end of deference to powerful institutions and the taking of personal responsibility on behalf of all members of society will initiate some of the changes that are necessary to prevent the occurrence of human rights abuses.

Wider societal attitudes to children who experienced residential institutions were often negative and hostile.  The prejudice and discrimination they experienced led many to emigrate, leading to the further disintegration of families who had already been divided when the children were placed in institutions.  We must be aware of the impact of prejudice and negative attitudes towards marginalised groups in our society.  Negative attitudes towards children in the criminal justice system, people with disabilities, asylum seekers and people with mental health problems makes life more difficult for members of our society who may already be vulnerable.

     5.  The State must operate on behalf of the people, not on behalf of interest groups.

The Reports demonstrate how the State had a deferential relationship with the Catholic Church.  The complaints of parents, children and lay workers about problems and abuses in residential institutions were dismissed by Department of Education officials, while the reputation of religious orders was defended by Ministers and T.D.’s in the Dáil.  While Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s recent criticism of the Vatican suggests a less deferential attitude to the Catholic Church, transparency in the operations of all arms of the State is necessary to prevent interest groups from exerting undue influence.  In all spheres, political actions must have at their core the best interests of the wider population and not sectional interests.

26 September 2011 – Amnesty International Ireland

In Plain Sight: Responding to the Ferns, Ryan, Murphy and Cloyne Reports

Click the Link Above to read and/or download PDF File (2.57 Mb)

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Institutions of National Governance – Criminally Dysfunctional ?

2009-05-28:  A week can be a long time in Ireland … during this last seven days, in particular, a time of harrowing emotions … horror, shame, disbelief, anger, pain, embarrassment … and relief that the truth has finally been revealed …

 

On Wednesday, 20th May 2009, at 14.30 hrs … the Report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse was published at a launch, before a select audience, in Dublin’s Conrad Hotel.  Victims of that child abuse and representative groups were barred, with the support of Gardaí, from attending.

 

Has anything really changed ?

 

The Commission was established on 23rd May 2000 … under the 2000 Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse Act (No.7 of 2000) … and given three primary functions:

         to hear evidence of abuse from persons who allege they suffered abuse in childhood, in institutions, during the period from 1940 or earlier, to the present day ;

         to conduct an inquiry into abuse of children in institutions during that period and, where satisfied that abuse occurred, to determine the causes, nature, circumstances and extent of such abuse ;   and

         to prepare and publish reports on the results of the inquiry and on its recommendations in relation to dealing with the effects of such abuse.

 

The Chairperson of the Commission, Mr. Justice Seán Ryan, is a judge of the High Court.

 

The full Ryan Commission Report can be downloaded here … www.childabusecommission.com/rpt/pdfs/

 

 

Although Commission Recommendation No.5 (Volume IV, Chapter 7, Paragraph 7.06) states …

 

Childcare policy should be child-centred.  The needs of the child should be paramount.

The overall policy of childcare should respect the rights and dignity of the child and have as its primary focus their safe care and welfare.  Services should be tailored to the developmental, educational and health needs of the particular child.  Adults entrusted with the care of children must prioritise the wellbeing and protection of those children above personal, professional or institutional loyalty.

 

[ Why is this critical Recommendation only in position ‘5’ ?   Concerning the rights and dignity of children, why is the word ‘should’ used instead of ‘must’ ? ]

 

… none of the 20 Commission Recommendations refer directly to the 1989 United Nations (OHCHR) Convention on the Rights of the Child, which became an International Legal Instrument on 2nd September 1990 … and which Ireland signed on 30th September 1990, and later ratified on 28th September 1992.

 

The Convention has not yet been fully incorporated into Irish National Law.  Why not ?

 

In relation to Ireland, the UN (OHCHR) Committee on the Rights of the Child observed the following in late 2006 …

 

” … the Committee regrets that some of the concerns expressed and recommendations made have not yet been fully addressed, in particular those related to the status of the child as a rights-holder and the adoption of a child rights-based approach in policies and practices.”

 

 

 

Some Comments & Questions …

 

1. The Hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland (with the notable exception of Dublin Archbishop, Dr. Diarmuid Martin), the Catholic Religious Orders and the Catholic Church generally … have lost their moral authority … and all credibility.  If child abuse was deeply in-grained and systemic in Ireland’s institutions … what was happening in institutions run by the 18(?) Irish Religious Congregations in other countries ?   What assets have been transferred out of Ireland by the 18(?) Irish Religious Orders since the year 2000 ?

 

2. The Irish Government Ministry having jurisdiction … the Department of Education … has been clearly shown to be criminally dysfunctional.  What radical changes in its organization, policies, practices and procedures will be put in place following the Ryan Commission Report ?   We also ask the same question of the Department of Health & Children !

 

 

 

Perhaps Unnoticed … Another Institution …

 

Reported in an article on Page 4 of The Irish Times (2009-05-21) … on the same day that the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse published its findings … 20th May 2009 … the family of a six-year-old girl, Sarah Jinks, who died in a fire on 10th January 1999 at a local authority house in Sligo, secured €115,000 in settlement of their High Court Action alleging that Sligo County Council had negligently failed to maintain a safe electrical system in the house.  During the Action, Sarah’s mother, Ms. Philomena Jinks, had claimed that the Council failed to respond with sufficient thoroughness to complaints about dangers in the house.

 

 

The ‘Real’ Institution Involved …

 

Let me place in the public domain some revealing background to a series of fatal fires at a local authority housing estate on the far side of the country from Sligo … and a Letter, dated 22nd September 2005, which we were forced to write to Bray Town Council, in County Wicklow …

 

Colour photograph showing the scene after a fire in a terraced house at Oldcourt Housing Estate, Bray, Co. Wicklow. Click to enlarge. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2005-08-18.

Colour photograph showing the scene after a fire in a terraced house at Oldcourt Housing Estate, Bray, Co. Wicklow. Click to enlarge. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2005-08-18.

 

Mr. Seán O’Neill,

Town Engineer,

Comhairle Baile Bhré,

Civic Offices,

Main Street,

Bray,

Co. Wicklow.

 

Re:  Fire Safety Survey of Oldcourt Estate, Bray.

 

Mr. O’Neill,

 

In good faith, we submitted a Tender Proposal (copy enclosed with the original letter) for a Fire Safety Survey of the Oldcourt Housing Estate to you.  As of today, we have had no communication, written or oral, from Bray Town Council.

 

We fully understood the critical need for this to be an authoritative, competent, comprehensive and entirely independent Fire Safety Survey.  Our principal concern was that this must be shown to be so, especially to local residents.  We remain uniquely qualified, in Ireland and Europe, to complete the special and unique task involved.

 

It was with complete shock, dismay and alarm, however, that we saw our Organization actually named in Media Reports of discussions which took place at the September Council Meeting in Bray.

 

As a matter of public record, we now wish to clarify a few issues …

 

1.       We commenced our work on the basis that the Tender Documentation issued by Bray Town Council was unreliable.  This we were only able to do because of our extensive experience with Local Authority Housing, and the ‘ways’ and ‘means’ of Local Authorities in Ireland.

 

2.       The Department of the Environment, Heritage & Local Government (DEHLG) has been intimately involved – at every level – with the planning, costing, design and construction of Local Authority Housing in every part of Ireland – from our direct experience, since the mid-1980’s.  The Department is, therefore, very far from being a Disinterested Party in the serious matters under examination at the Oldcourt Housing Estate.  It was extraordinary to see a representative of the DEHLG on the Interview Panel.

 

3.       The Members of the Tender Interview Panel may have been ‘experts’, but we are not sure in which field.  They showed little interest in our extensive practical experience of the complex area of fire engineering and its dynamic interaction with other aspects of performance in buildings and the built environment.  It was necessary to explain some fundamental facts about the limited safety objectives of the Building Regulations to one Member.  Some of the working methods necessary to effectively complete the Fire Safety Survey, of which we have direct and extensive experience, were unknown to all Members.  It was clear that the Panels Members did not fully read our Tender Proposal.

 

4.       At one stage in the Tender Interview, it was strongly ‘suggested’ to us that the Survey was to be a purely technical exercise, with no involvement whatever by the residents.  At approximately the ‘two-thirds’ stage in the short interview, we realized that there was some ‘agenda’ in the background.  We did not, therefore, make any final comments to the Panel.

 

We must now conclude that the Tender Process, organized by Bray Town Council, for a Fire Safety Survey of the Oldcourt Housing Estate appears to be corrupt.  With deep regret, we hereby withdraw our Tender Proposal.

 

We require a full explanation as to why we have received no communication from you, or anybody else associated with Bray Town Council.  We demand a full apology from the Council, and this must be published widely in the local and national media.

 

We are consulting with our legal advisors.

 

Signed:  C. J. Walsh, Chief Technical Officer, FireOx International.

 

Copy:  Ms. Deirdre deBurca, Chairperson, Bray Town Council.

 

 

[ No response has ever been received to this letter … from any party. ]

 

 

 

 

And … we have not forgotten the deep corruption which went to the core of the Tribunal of Inquiry into the Stardust Fire Disaster.

 

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