Dublin honours heroic firefighters

Three heroic fire fighters killed in the worst tragedy to hit the service were today honoured in Dublin city.

A plaque was unveiled to commemorate the courage of Thomas Nugent, Peter McArdle and Robert Malone, who died tackling a late night inferno in 1936.

The men died when a series of explosions collapsed two buildings at Exide Batteries on Pearse Street.

The service had not suffered a loss as bad until Bray firefighters Brian Murray and Mark O’Shaughnessy were killed in September as they fought a blaze in a derelict warehouse.

Firefighters Nugent, McArdle, and Malone, who had been buried in the rubble, lay in state in City Hall before given a civic funeral to Glasnevin Cemetery.

More than 80,000 people, including fire crews from overseas, lined the streets to pay their respects to the three.

Today, in a more low-key ceremony, a small crowd gathered at the site of the former factory which is now the new sports centre at Trinity College.

A single piper from Dublin Fire Brigade Band played during the poignant event.

Robert Malone’s nephew Tony Behan, who has penned the history of the incident for historical records, said it was a special moment for all the families.

“We’re very proud,” said the 75-year-old, from Dublin’s Navan Road.

“It was a long time coming and well deserved.”

Stephanie Nolan (nee McArdle) from Clonskeagh was born in flats at Tara Street fire station in January 1937, three months after the death of her father Peter McArdle.

She said her older siblings vividly remember the blaze, which they could see from their city centre home.

The 71-year-old said her heartbroken mother Kit, who was widowed with six other children including a baby with Downs Syndrome, had passed on all the paper cuttings she kept from the fire and funeral.

“For the 50th anniversary of the fire we held a Mass in Westland Row Church and Bertie Ahern, who was Lord Mayor of Dublin at the time, laid a wreath,” said Mrs Nolan.

“Then on the 70th anniversary on 2003, we asked if something more could be done.

“The plaque is absolutely wonderful and a deserving tribute for the men.”

Mrs Nolan said the fatal fire in Bray brought back of memories for her and other family members, especially for Mrs Murray and her children.

The government is considering issuing medals of valour in honour for the retained fire fighters.

The families of Mr Murray, 46, a father-of-15 and Mr O’Shaughnessy, 26, have called for a full inquiry into the circumstances surrounding their deaths.

Hugh O’Neill, chief fire officer of Dublin Fire Bridge, said the Pearse Street tragedy was the biggest loss of life for the service to date.

“A plaque to remember the men is already at the training centre in Marino but we felt there should be one where the accident happened,” he said.

“The fire brigade is well supported by the city of Dublin and it is nice to get something out there in recognition of these men for the public to see.

“It is a sad piece of our history.”

Dublin Lord Mayor Cllr Paddy Bourke, who unveiled the memorial, said he was honoured to commemorate the sacrifice the three firefighters made.

“The plaque will serve as a reminder to everyone of the courageous acts these men carried out in the face of danger.”

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