Two days ago, on the 12th Anniversary of the 9-11 World Trade Center Attacks in New York City … I couldn’t help recalling a period of time 20 years earlier, and the still vivid memories of institutional ‘after-shocks’ following the 1981 Dublin Stardust Discotheque Fire in February of that year. For a very long time afterwards, the Irish Fire Establishment disappeared from public view and hearing … without any trace ! As a young architect, at the time, just starting out in private practice … it was a critical lesson on the importance of ‘reality’ … and the malignancy of ‘realpolitik’.
As the years rolled by, and more and more information was revealed by troubled ‘insiders’ and uncovered by brave journalists … it was clear to me that the Dublin Fire had spawned two entirely separate and unconnected realities:
- The Frontline Tragedy … of the fire victims (those who were killed or injured on the night, and those who survived), their families and (to this day) their mournful pleas for justice and truthful answers, the local communities, the first responders, e.g. firefighters, ambulance personnel, and Garda/police and (to this day) their continuing struggle for adequate resources, the staff of the Dublin hospitals … and a shocked public.
- Defensive Institutions … senior policy and decision makers in national and local authorities, or agencies, having jurisdiction and/or responsibility for blatantly inadequate building codes and standards, poorly resourced technical control systems over building design and construction, and a dysfunctional emergency response infrastructure … senior politicians, on both sides of the political spectrum, who ‘fixed’ the format and major outcomes from the post-incident investigation (they ensured that minor outcomes were either implemented in a ham-fisted bureaucratic manner, or were ignored) … the various building design disciplines directly involved and their respective professional organizations … etc., etc.
These Same Realities have been re-born … and have evolved in scale … out of the savage destruction on that Tuesday, 11 September 2001.