Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Opposition to plans for shop at Creeslough explosion site

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Plans to rebuild a shop and petrol station on the site of the Creeslough explosion in Co Donegal are being met with opposition by some of the bereaved families, who have launched a petition calling for a memorial garden to be developed there instead.

Ten people died when a devastating blast ripped through Lafferty’s AppleGreen Service Station in October 2022, and following the recent launch of renewal plans for the village, grieving families say they have now been made aware of plans to redevelop the explosion site by the business owners.

For Hugh and Donna Harper from Letterkenny, who lost their 14-year-old daughter Leona in the tragedy, “it’s disrespectful” as they see the place where their “little girl took her last breath as sacred ground”.

Hugh and Donna Harper lost their 14-year-old daughter Leona in the tragedy

The idea that the explosion site would return to use as a shop and filling station with “people going in there on their daily business, walking on the spot where those people died” is too hard to cope with, according to Leona’s grieving father.

Speaking to RTE’s Drivetime, Mr Harper also stressed that he does not want to deny the people of Creeslough the shop and services they need, but called for it to be built on an alternative site to show “respect for the ten lives lost”.

Anne Marie Boyle’s “baby sister” Catherine O’Donnell was 39 when she and her 13-year-old son James Monaghan died in the explosion.

Catherine O’Donnell and her son James died in the explosion (pic:RollingNews.ie)

Also speaking to Drivetime, she said she has made her views known “from the very start” and that the site should become a memorial garden.

She believes many others feel the same way.

Ms Boyle said she and her mother still need to use services in the area, but could not do business “in that same spot”.

Growing up, Ms Boyle recalls being “told off if you walked on someone’s grave”.

She is now calling on “the owners or whoever is involved in the plan going forward to show the same courtesy and respect and not to rebuild on the site they took their last breaths”.

She also recalled promises from Government and politicians to help the people of Creeslough in the wake of the devastating tragedy, saying: “This is the time we need them to step forward and seek an alternative (site) to put the shop on.”

Hugh Harper with his daughter Leona who died in the tragedy

Mr Harper said it is time for “someone to take the lead” in finding a solution, other than bereaved families or the private owners of the business.

He expressed hope that having a new shop in an alternative location would help them “to heal better”.

Since the Creeslough explosion in October 2022, the local supermarket operates from a large prefabricated building beside the local St Michael’s Church.

While others in Creeslough say there are mixed views as to where a permanent supermarket and service station should be rebuilt, an online petition calling for a halt to reconstruction plans for the explosion site has now gathered more than 1,000 signatures.

RTÉ’s Drivetime have made efforts to contact the Lafferty family for comment.

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Questions have also been put to Donegal County Council by RTÉ’s Drivetime on whether any consideration has been given to the public purchase of the site to allow for the development of a public memorial space as requested by some bereaved families.

The council has not yet responded to Drivetime’s queries.

Four men, three women and three young people, ranging in ages from five to 59, died in the Creeslough explosion.

They were Robert Garwe and his five-year-old daughter Shauna Flanagan Garwe, Catherine O’Donnell and her 13-year-old son James Monaghan, Jessica Gallagher, Martin McGill, James O’Flaherty, Martina Martin, Hugh Kelly and 14-year-old Leona Harper.

The ten victims who died in the tragedy in Creeslough in October 2022

Two men arrested in connection with the garda investigation into the explosion were released without charge last month.

The men, aged in their 50s, were questioned over alleged offences contrary to the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act.

Gardaí said that the investigation is ongoing with the intention of submitting a file to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

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