Friday 15 June 2018

Aberdeen remembers Grenfell - FBU's Leon Murray - "We will not rest till we have justice."

ATUC held a moving commemoration for Grenfell in Aberdeen on 14th June, remembering the 72 men, women and children killed one year ago this evening in a terrible and preventable fire. 

It began with a statement from the Justice4Grenfell, then around 50 people lit candles and wrote messages of support to survivors, families and friends of those lost.
There were emotional speeches and poems and a clear message that we will not forget and we will fight for justice for those who died and those left behind. We thank all the speakers.

Leon Murray spoke on behalf of Fire Brigades Union. Here is the speech he made.

"I’d like to thank Aberdeen Trades Union Council for organising this event and inviting me to attend and I’d also like to thank you all for coming here to take part in what, I’m sure you will agree, has been a very moving event. It’s right that we remember what happened a year ago in this way.

None of us will ever forget what we saw on our TV screens when we woke up that morning, the shear horror of the event unfolding was impossible to comprehend. As a firefighter it was no easier to believe, no firefighter in the UK had ever dealt with a fire of that magnitude, it was a fire that could not be prepared for, it should not have been able to happen.

Once we all realised that what we witnessed was real then the questions started to be asked, and those questions remain largely unanswered. How could this have happened, how could a relatively modern building in one of the richest areas, of one of the richest cities in the world be involved in a tragedy so horrific that 72 people, 72 innocent men, women and children lost their lives?

That number, 72, is a number we hear all the time when Grenfell is spoken about, but the people who died aren’t a number, they were mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, grandparents, friends, they were real people, they were individuals and they all deserve answers and justice.

I’d like to pay tribute to the women and men of the fire service who were there that night who worked tirelessly to save as many lives as they could, and I’m proud to say that they are members of the Fire Brigades Union, my comrades, my brothers and sisters.

They went into that building, searching flats in searing heat, feeling their way around in the smoke filled darkness to find anyone they could then carrying them down the stairs and out to safety, then turning round and going back in to do it again and again and again.

The teams got separated, they were running out of air, they gave up their own protective equipment to the residents, they put their own safety second to saving lives.

If you were to ask any of those firefighters why they did it, why did they risk their lives for people they didn’t know each one would give you the same answer, “it’s my job, people needed help”
That’s what YOUR firefighters do.

As the fire was still burning and in the days and weeks afterwards, the firefighters who attended Grenfell were, quite rightly, praised by everyone, public, politicians, even the media, they all supported them. 

Over the last couple of weeks however as the inquiry has started to hear evidence, certain elements of the gutter press have started to revert back to their normal position regarding firefighters, they’ve started to try and blame them for what happened on that night.

Firefighters aren’t to blame for what happened, but someone is, someone has to take responsibility.

The inquiry set up to examine the circumstances leading up to and surrounding the fire will no doubt come to conclusions and The Fire Brigades Union, as the voice of firefighters will be part of that inquiry. We should not pre judge the outcomes of that inquiry, but it’s become clear very early on that the cladding installed was a huge factor.

Why was that cladding installed? They chose inferior materials and gambled with lives. Someone made a conscious decision to go with the cheaper option, a flammable material on the outside of a hi rise block of flats, how could they do that? 

What was their motivation? Was it purely cost or was there political motivation as well and if so who was behind it?

The current government has an unpreceded record of cuts in all public sectors THEY call it austerity. 

Since 2010 firefighter numbers in the UK have been cut by more than 10,000, fire safety inspector numbers cut by 40% and Boris Johnson closed 10 fire stations in London alone and made a joke of it.

To put that in context, 10 fire stations is the same number of stations in Aberdeen, Dundee, Perth and Inverness, combined, all closed.

I’d like to ask those behind these decisions how they sleep at night, do they climb into their beds and see the flames, feel the heat and smell the smoke of Grenfell, I doubt it.

The firefighters that were there do, the survivors of Grenfell do. They’ll never forget it and neither should we.

That day last year was horrific but it also showed good, an overwhelming display of community, a coming together of people from ALL backgrounds, races and religions, a true display of humanity and solidarity.

The ordinary people of Kensington and Chelsea showed the politicians in government how it should be done and they did it, not for praise or reward, but because it because it was right, and they did it with a quiet dignity that they should be proud of. 

The inquiry has started but there is a long way to go but we will get the answers.

I’d like to say to those who are leading that inquiry to look back in history, if there is the slightest hint of a cover up the people of Grenfell will not give up, just as the survivors of Hillsborough didn’t give up, they will not rest until they have the answers and those responsible are brought to justice.

Until we have Justice4Grenfell."