A MAN whose son died two Christmases ago of carbon monoxide poisoning has criticised environment minister John Gormley for failing to introduce life-saving legislation.
Despite continuous lobbying of the minister's department and the gas industry, Cathal Hughes – who is now spearheading an advertising campaign for carbon monoxide (CM) alarms – says his son's death has done little to provoke a change in the law.
Twenty-year-old Pádraig Hughes was pronounced dead in hospital on Christmas Day 2008 after inhaling the toxic fumes in his sleep. His twin sister Emma narrowly avoided the same fate.
"We have canvassed and we have canvassed and to date nothing has happened; we seem to be able to legislate for breeding dogs and for stag hunts but we don't seem to be able to legislate for the health and safety of people in their homes," Hughes said in a direct attack on the Green Party leader.
Saying he was "terribly disappointed" in Gormley's lack of action, he said gas companies seem to have decided not to promote the use of carbon monoxide alarms despite moves in the UK for the mandatory fitting of the devices in new homes.
"I wrote to (Bord Gáis) and I got a letter back and basically they said that they don't promote them here in Ireland because they may be faulty or they may be put in the wrong place or they may not work," he said.
"It's an appalling reply and my attitude to that is they must think that smoke alarms must not be put in either. It's akin to you and me going out in a boat and my saying if you have the boat serviced you don't need to put on a life jacket; if I get my car serviced does that mean I can drive around without my seatbelt?"
Bord Gáis says that while the advice does not feature in its broadcast ads because of time constraints, CM alarms are recommended in its leaflets.
The issue, a spokeswoman explained, is not about the non-promotion of alarms but about ensuring that people are aware that proper maintenance of boilers and fires is the most important safety measure.
The Department of the Environment has said CM alarms will feature in a review of building regulations next year.
However, Hughes argues that the lack of public awareness is the central concern.
Despite the ongoing battle, Hughes' tragic story has already saved lives. His family received a letter from a woman in New York who told them that, after reading about their tragedy, she bought two alarms for her apartment which later went off.
The fire brigade was called and they found a defective boiler. They told her that, had the people in the block of seven apartments gone to bed that night, they might not have woken up again.
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