Fatal fire flats in Dungannon to be rebuilt

Forensic officers at the scene of the fatal fire in Dunlea Vale in April 2012
Forensic officers at the scene of the fatal fire in Dunlea Vale in April 2012

A BLOCK of flats which was the scene of an arson attack that claimed the life of a Dungannon pensioner and her daughter more than two years ago, is to be rebuilt, the TIMES has learned.

Consultants are due to be appointed to prepare a design for the scheme at Dunlea Vale at a cost of approximately £110,000.

Elizabeth 'Betty' McGirr

Elizabeth 'Betty' McGirr

Seventy-one year-old Betty McGirr and her daughter Deirdre, who was 38, died in the horrific blaze on April 14, 2012.

Mrs McGirr was visiting her daughter at the time of the fire, which was started deliberately.

Police said the blaze started at the back of the property and ripped through the top-floor flat in which the women were occupants.

Despite a high-profile police investigation into the fire, which included appeals to trace two men seen close to the scene around the time of the incident, no one has ever been convicted in relation to the deaths of Betty and Deirdre McGirr.

Deirdre McGirr

Deirdre McGirr

Now, over two years on from the tragedy, residents living close to the scene of the fire are continuing with their calls for the block of flats to be demolished.

The ravaged building in the Dunlea Vale housing estate stands as a cruel reminder of the fateful night the popular and much loved women, described at their joint Funeral Mass as “the best of friends”, lost their lives.

In a statement to the TYRONE TIMES, a spokeswoman for the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) explained that structural surveys and an economic appraisal have been carried out in relation to the options available for the property.

As the flats are sited in an area of high demand for housing, the spokeswoman continued, it was agreed that the “best way forward” would be to rebuild them.

“Since the fire on 14 April 2012 the scene was initially held by the PSNI as a possible crime scene”, the statement explains.

“Once their investigations were concluded the Housing Executive was then allowed to carry out an initial structural survey. Given the site’s condition at the time this survey was limited, however, the extent of the fire damage indicated demolition was an option.

“An economic appraisal was then agreed to consider all possible options and consultants were procured and appointed to take this forward. “A subsequent full structural survey indicated reinstatement was a viable option. As this is an area of high demand we have agreed this is the way forward.”

Local SDLP councillor, Denise Mullen, welcomed the news. “I had approached the Housing Executive this week about the issue after being in touch with residents who were concerned that, to date, nothing has been done with the property”, Cllr Mullen told the TIMES.

“I think this will be a welcome development as long as it cleans up the area and helps to meet the high demand for housing that there is locally. People have been calling for something to be done because unfortunately the flats in their present condition are a very sad and constant reminder of what happened here.”