Taoiseach admits lessons can be learned from death of Fintan Goss
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has admitted that “lessons can be learned” from the death of Fintan Goss during Storm Ophelia last month, particularly in relation to what public safety warnings mean for employers.
His comments came after being challenged on the matter by local TD Peter Fitzpatrick during a Dáil debate yesterday during which the Louth deputy raised the tragic death of Ravensdale man.
Fitzpatrick, who is a former manager of the St Patrick’s GFC side whom Fintan played for, called for clear guidelines for businesses and self-employed people on what they should do in the event of a national weather emergency such as Storm Ophelia.
33-year-old Fintan died during the storm on Monday October 16th after a tree fell on his car on the R132 old Dundalk to Newry Road as he made his way home from work. He was just a short distance away from his home in Ballymakellett when the tragic incident occurred at around 2.45pm. He was one of three people nationwide to lose their lives during the storm, which saw a red yellow warning issued for the entire country.
Citing an email from Fintan’s wife Pamela, Deputy Fitzpatrick called for greater guidance for employers as to how to handle such serious events in the future.
He said: “The Goss family have many questions about what happened on the day in question. What are the rules or guidance for employers in respect of dangers during a status red weather warning? What guidelines were issued to employers, the self-employed and those working in the public sector for turning up for work on Monday, 16 October 2017?
“Much has been made of the correct decision to close every school in the country in the interests of safety. However, there was widespread confusion before, during and after Storm Ophelia as to the position regarding private sector employers and other parts of the public sector.
“The Taoiseach conveyed the condolences of the country and Government to the Goss family and stated the most important issue was to ensure no one else loses his or her life. He also pleaded with people to put safety first. Those are fine words but they are of little comfort to the Goss family because putting safety first was interpreted differently by some employers and managers.
“Fintan Goss is dead because someone decided he should stay at work while others in the company were sent home earlier in the day. The resulting confusion and lack of clarity are the reasons Fintan Goss’s children have no father, his wife Pamela has no husband and the Goss family has lost a son and brother.”
A copy of the email from Pamela to Deputy Fitzpatrick was forwarded to the Taoiseach, who once again extended his condolences to the Goss family on their loss before insisting the matter would be thoroughly reviewed with a proper response in the New Year.
Mr Varadkar said: “Although I believe that, in the round, people accept the storm was well managed, there are always lessons that can be learned and lessons can be learned from the deaths that occurred.
“A report will be done and submitted to Cabinet in January 2018. One of the issues it will examine is how we can better define what public safety warnings mean.
“It is acknowledged that there is a very clear mechanism in place for closing schools and public officers. There was, however, confusion regarding what private sector businesses and self-employed persons should do. We acknowledge that there is a shortcoming in this area from which we intend to learn. I hope we will give some clarity on this issue on which we should have an answer by January,” said the Taoiseach.
Fintan Goss is survived by his wife Pamela and children Laragh and Henry, as well as a wider circle of family and friends.