Contractor who cleared Omagh bomb site launches legal challenge

Police officers and firefighters inspecting the damage of the Omagh bomb in 1998. Picture by Paul McErlane/PA Wire 
Staff Reporter

A CONTRACTOR who cleared the Omagh bomb site has launched a legal challenge to being disqualified as a company director.

Joseph Strawbridge is appealing a ruling made following wider proceedings against him over breaching health and safety regulations in asbestos removal work.

The 74-year-old told a High Court judge yesterday that he has lost up to £600,000 since being kept off a disused Co Antrim power station at the centre of the dispute.

Mr Strawbridge ran firms involved in the demolition and removal of asbestos from the Courtaulds site in Carrickfergus.

Investigations were carried out after Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland inspectors visited in 2009.

With asbestos contamination identified, Mr Strawbridge, as managing director of Bridgeline Environmental Services, admitted contravening the relevant regulations.

He is now seeking to overturn a separate decision by a High Court Master to disqualify him from acting as a company director.

At a preliminary hearing before Mr Justice Horner, the Limavady-based contractor argued that his workmen were never in any danger.

The asbestos found had been the equivalent in size to a 2lb bag of sugar and "as white as snow", he claimed.

Meanwhile, according to his account, up to 360 tonnes of the material had been safely removed.

He also disclosed that his foreman subsequently took his own life after failing to secure new work.

As part of his appeal he wanted to subpoena health and safety officials to give evidence.

But counsel for the Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment argued that it was a "vexatious" move aimed at attacking separate decisions reached in other cases.

Backing his assessment, the judge ruled that it would be against the interests of justice to allow the subpoenas.

He listed the appeal for a full hearing next month.

Before Mr Strawbridge left court he urged the judge to personally visit and investigate to the Carrickfergus site which he claimed remains a serious danger to public health.

The judge stressed however, that he has no powers to carry out any such inspection.

In August 1998 Mr Strawbridge's team cleared up following the devastation caused by the Omagh bomb attack which left 29 people dead and more and 200 injured.

Outside court he vowed to challenge the disqualification he said had wrongly left his name "scorched by malpractice".


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