Creeslough ambulance claim ‘a drafting error’

Firefighters on a mechanical platform assess the damage caused to the service station and a nearby apartment block
Image caption,The explosion at a service station in Creeslough, County Donegal, on 7 October 2022, killed 10 people.

A committee of Irish and British politicians has apologised for claims that Northern Ireland ambulances could not cross the border to help in the aftermath of a deadly explosion.

The blast in Creeslough, County Donegal, last year killed 10 people.

Previously, a British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly (BIPA) report claimed ambulances could not attend because of visa issues.

The assembly has now admitted that was a “drafting error”.

In a clarification issued on Tuesday, the assembly said it wanted to acknowledge the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) response “was not affected in any way by border or visa issues”.

It said the report should have instead referred to “paramedics” being affected and not ambulances.

The BIPA statement added: “The committee wishes to apologise for any confusion that may have arisen.”

The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) welcomed the “clarification” and “correction to the record”, which confirmed their response to the Creeslough incident “was in no way hindered on the day”.

Creeslough is in the north west of Ireland, about 15 miles (24km) from Letterkenny and 30 miles (48km) from the border with Northern Ireland.

The fatal explosion in Creeslough happened on 7 October 2022.

The victims of the explosion were Jessica Gallagher, Robert Garwe, Shauna Flanagan Garwe, Leona Harper, Hugh Kelly, Martina Martin, Martin McGill, James Monaghan, Catherine O'Donnell and James O'Flaherty

The victims – four men, three women, two teenagers and a five-year-old girl – were from the village or surrounding areas.

Emergency services from Northern Ireland assisted in the response, including fire crews, search and rescue teams and the air ambulance.

The BIPA report, Protecting the Common Travel Area (CTA), was published in October.

That same month, Irish politician Emer Currie, a Fine Gael Senator, quoted from the report and said that “some ambulances from Northern Ireland could not assist during the explosion that occurred in Creeslough because not all of the paramedics had the necessary visas to cross the invisible border”.

The claim was rejected at the time by NIAS.

It said the ambulance service responded immediately and in large numbers to the blast, which had been declared as a major incident.

‘Sincere thanks’

On Tuesday, BIPA’s steering committee said it had now “updated its report to correct the drafting error”.

The paragraph from the report drafted in error has now been deleted and replaced, it said.

BIPA added that it “again extends the assembly’s sincere thanks and appreciation to members of all the ambulance services and other emergency services which attended the Creeslough tragedy”.

The British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly was established in 1990 to act as a link between the UK and Irish parliaments.

It also now includes representatives from Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man.

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