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Life of O’Reilly
Manchester Bombing, Issue 1453
Chief fire officer Peter O’Reilly has announced his retirement from the Greater Manchester brigade
GREATER Manchester chief fire officer (CFO) Peter O’Reilly has announced his retirement after less than three years in the job, while still facing questions about the brigade’s tardy response to the bombing faced by the city in May.

O’Reilly joined GMFRS from Northern Ireland in March 2011 and in February 2015 was promoted to the £150,000-a-year position of CFO. Much of his time in post has been taken up with a battle over cuts. In June 2016, the cash-strapped Greater Manchester Fire Authority agreed to axe 253 firefighter posts and proposed a controversial 12-hour shift system, seeking to save £10m. By that September, O’Reilly was locked in a bitter dispute over these proposals, which at one point saw GMFRS senior management to threaten to sack all 1,017 firefighters in Greater Manchester and only reinstate those agreeing to the new rota.

Fire engines seemed strangely absent
Then a suicide bomber wreaked havoc at the Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena, killing 22 people. Rolling news viewers saw streams of ambulances and armed police arrive. But fire engines seemed strangely absent.

A senior fire service officer told local press: “On the back of the Mumbai attacks [in 2008] it was recognised there was a need for firefighters in Greater Manchester who had advanced trauma skills, who could deal with gunshot wounds, and would be kitted out with body armour and trained in the rapid extraction of victims from dangerous locations.” In the aftermath of the attack, it emerged that not only were the specialist teams not deployed to the arena, normal fire crews were even held back from the scene for more than 90 minutes.

Angry firefighters turned to social media. “All that resource, all that experience and more importantly all that willingness to want to help, in probably one of the most needed shouts in our careers, and this was the response from the top! Embarrassed to say I represent these clowns,” complained one. “Police from Wales were in attendance before we were,” said another. Five fire appliances were belatedly dispatched to the scene, but only after much of the dangerous first response to help the badly wounded and dying was over.

So that the right lessons can be learned
An independent review of the emergency services’ and authorities’ response to the bombing, chaired by Lord Kerslake, is getting under way this month, now that individual organisations have completed their own internal reviews and debriefs. Mayor Andy Burnham said it would “take an honest look at what happened so that the right lessons can be learned for the future”.

More top stories in the latest issue:

Yet more money to be thrown at NHS IT – including the same software company whose past work was not fit for purpose.

Murky conduct in South Africa from KPMG, the accountancy firm that provides huge amounts of advice to the UK government.

More on the law firm with a lucrative line in silencing campaigners and journalists with serious questions about dirty money.

More nonsense reporting from the Mail on Sunday of the Operation Conifer investigation into sex abuse allegations against Ted Heath.

Ministers on parade at the massive annual DSEI arms fair.

The struggle to find new sponsors willing to take over failed academy chains.

The British Council worker and her Nigerian husband who are blocked from living in the same country .

Victims of the contaminated blood scandal of the 1970s and 80s would have no confidence in any inquiry led by the Department of Health.

To read all these stories in full, get the latest edition of Private Eye - you can subscribe here and have the magazine delivered to your home every fortnight.

Next issue on sale: 31st October 2017.
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31st October 2017
In This Issue private eye
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Private Eye Issue 1452