We do not yet know how many have died in the terrible fire at Grenfell Tower block in North Kensington in London. But we do know that behind this tragedy lies a scandal that must be investigated.
Residents of the block had been campaigning about the dreadful danger they were being forced to live with. Last November they issued this tragically prophetic, and now utterly devastating, warning.
“Grenfell Action Group have reached the conclusion that only an incident that results in serious loss of life of KCTMO [Kensington & Chelsea Tenants Management Organisation] residents will allow the external scrutiny to occur that will shine a light on the practices that characterise the malign governance of this non-functioning organisation. We believe that the KCTMO have ensured their ongoing survival by the use of proxy votes at their Annual General Meeting that see them returned with a mandate of 98% in favour of the continuation of their inept and highly dangerous management of our homes. It is no coincidence that the 98% is the same figure that is returned by the infamous Kim Jong-un of North Korea who claims mass popularity while reputedly enslaving the general population and starving the majority of his people to death.
It is our conviction that a serious fire in a tower block or similar high density residential property is the most likely reason that those who wield power at the KCTMO will be found out and brought to justice! The Grenfell Action Group believe that the KCTMO narrowly averted a major fire disaster at Grenfell Tower in 2013 when residents experienced a period of terrifying power surges that were subsequently found to have been caused by faulty wiring. We believe that our attempts to highlight the seriousness of this event were covered up by the KCTMO with the help of the RBKC[Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea] Scrutiny Committee who refused to investigate the legitimate concerns of tenants and leaseholders.”
Not only did the tenants warn about the possibility of this terrible tragedy but so also did the FBU. Boris Johnson pushed through dangerous cuts to the fire service and he was warned about this in 2014. The provision within the RBKC borough was halved and interviews with the tenants this morning talk about delays in response. There needs to be a full public inquiry to see what part these cuts played.
At the time of the cuts FBU’s regional secretary for London, Paul Embery, said:
“Boris Johnson will have blood on his hands. It will be only a matter of time before someone dies because a fire engine did not get to them in time. You cannot close ten fire stations and slash nearly 600 firefighter jobs without compromising public safety. These stations have protected generations of Londoners, and they are as necessary now as they ever were”. [This information is courtesy of Andrew Burgin in London].
Finally as an observer in Dublin it has to be said that this equal or possibly worse tragedy in terms of lives lost – we don’t know yet – has received enormously less media attention than the terrorist attack in London. Such,of course, are the ‘news values’ of our media.