Video: Eddie Daffarn, Who Foresaw the Grenfell Tower Fire, Interviewed by Channel 4 News as the Official Inquiry Begins

25.5.18

Photos of 21 of the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire on June 14, 2017, in which 71 people are acknowledged to have died - and a 72nd victim died of injuries sustained in January 2018.Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist.

 

This has been a significant week for the survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire last June, when 72 people died in a disaster that should never have happened. On Monday, the official inquiry began, with survivors’ testimony that has been taking place all week after the inquiry’s chair, Sir Martin Moore-Bick, called the fire “the single greatest tragedy to befall [London] since the second world war”, and “pledged that survivors’ testimony would be treated as ‘integral evidence’ in proceedings which could run into 2020”, as the Guardian described it.

The Guardian’s detailed coverage of the hearings this week is here — Day One, Day Two, Day Three, Day Four and Day Five — and, from the beginning, the testimony was extraordinarily powerful.

As the Guardian described it, “Marcio Gomes, the father of Logan Gomes, the disaster’s youngest victim who was stillborn after his mother went into a coma, showed the several hundred gathered survivors, support workers, lawyers and journalists an ultrasound scan of his son and told them how he had been left ‘broken.’”

He said, “I held my son in my arms, wishing, praying for any kind of miracle that he would open his eyes, move, make a sound. As we know that never happened. You don’t know what you are made of until you are broken,” he added, hugging his wife, and stating, “Without her strength and courage I would not be here.”

The family of Mohamed “Saber” Neda, a Kabul-born chauffeur who had feld the Taliban, and had lived on the top floor of Grenfell Tower since 1999, played “a harrowing recording of his last phone message as the fire took hold.” In Dari, he said, “Goodbye. We are now leaving this world. Goodbye. I hope I haven’t disappointed you. Goodbye to all.”

The Guardian also noted how “[t]he family of Mary Mendy, originally from Gambia, and her daughter, Khadija Saye, showed a short BBC film of Khadija at home in Grenfell talking about her art. She was a celebrated photographer who had exhibited at the Venice Biennale before she and her mother perished.” In a statement read out by a solicitor, the family stated, “The pain is unbearable. There are no words to describe the emptiness that’s in our hearts.”

Also clear from the hearings, as was made clear when profiles of all 72 victims of the fire were published by the Guardian two weeks ago, is how most of them were not white, and most were immigrants, examples of the incredible melting pot that modern London is, a vibrant patchwork of races and cultures that is the compete antithesis of the narrow, bigoted anti-immigrant view that the Brexit campaign so sadly brandished and continues to brandish as some sort of barometer of modern Britain, when it is no such thing, and is, at most, the bitter view of a minority of the population; a large minority perhaps, but nothing like an overwhelming majority of the UK population as a whole.

Also worth noting is how, in the demonisation of those living in social housing, which inevitably followed the fire, from those who love to look down on the working class, there was little recognition that, because of Margaret Thatcher’s ‘Right to Buy’ policy, it isn’t even possible to pretend coherently that all those who live in social housing are an underclass, as all manner of people, including middle class and professional people, sub-let flats as part of the reality of a greedy, over-heated housing market rigorously maintained by central government and the banks.

For another account of the week’s hearings, see Simon Hattenstone’s article, with its description of “the most incredible array of people, their journeys and achievements”, here.

Eddie Daffarn interviewed by Channel 4 News

On the day the inquiry began, Channel 4 News also broadcast a powerful interview with Eddie Daffarn, who lived on the 16th floor of Grenfell Tower, and who “wrote a blog post predicting the Grenfell Tower fire seven months before it happened”, as Channel 4 described it.

Daffarn was one of the founders, researchers and writers of the Grenfell Action Group website, which forensically analysed the failings of Kensington and Chelsea Council and Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO), the management company that had taken over all of the borough’s social housing, and, indeed, warned of the fire seven months before it happened.

As the disaster unfolded last June, and I began researching it, one article in particular leapt out at me. Dated November 20, 2016, the article, ‘KCTMO – Playing with fire!’, featured a photo of a tower block on fire, and the following prescient and damning words:

It is a truly terrifying thought but the Grenfell Action Group firmly believe that only a catastrophic event will expose the ineptitude and incompetence of our landlord, the KCTMO, and bring an end to the dangerous living conditions and neglect of health and safety legislation that they inflict upon their tenants and leaseholders. We believe that the KCTMO are an evil, unprincipled, mini-mafia who have no business to be charged with the responsibility of looking after the every day management of large scale social housing estates and that their sordid collusion with the RBKC Council is a recipe for a future major disaster.

Unfortunately, the Grenfell Action Group have reached the conclusion that only an incident that results in serious loss of life of KCTMO residents will allow the external scrutiny to occur that will shine a light on the practices that characterise the malign governance of this non-functioning organisation.

It is our conviction that a serious fire in a tower block or similar high density residential property is the most likely reason that those who wield power at the KCTMO will be found out and brought to justice!

As I stated at the time, in my article, Deaths Foretold at Grenfell Tower: Let This Be The Moment We The People Say “No More” to the Greed That Killed Residents, “There is much more in the blog post — and in other posts dating back to 2013 — to demonstrate the repeated and persistent dereliction of duty on the part of the KCTMO regarding the safety of tenants, and it is important that these problems are not allowed to be swept under the carpet by the government, as happened with the recommendations that followed the last major London tower block fire, at Lakanal House in Camberwell, in 2009, when six people died.”

Below, via YouTube, is Jon Snow’s interview with Eddie Daffarn, his first since the fire. As he explains, “Grenfell was totally avoidable … If the council, and if the TMO had treated us with a modicum of respect and humanity, Grenfell would have been avoided.”

In a wide-ranging interview, he also demands transparency on the part of those managing tower blocks (the opposite of the behaviour of the KCTMO), expresses concerns that so many other tower blocks are still clad in the insanely flammable material that caused the fire at Grenfell to become an inferno, and explained how the council and KCTMO saw their social housing as a gold mine, because of the value of the land and its development potential, and how, as a result, their sole preoccupation was to get rid of residents, and, very specifically, not to keep them safe.

He calls for accountability, and also calls for an urgent change in the culture surrounding social housing, which views residents as work-shy criminals, when, in fact, as he asserts powerfully, the people of Grenfell have been revealed as both eloquent and hard-working, and that is true in general of people who live in social housing.

I do hope you have time to watch the interview, and will share it if you find it useful. The Grenfell Action Group’s work has been essential in exposing the truth about Kensington and Chelsea Council, Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation, and the culture of the building industry and, lest we forget, the actions of the red tape-shredding central government that allowed Grenfell to happen, and it informed my song ‘Grenfell’, performed here with my band The Four Fathers and beatboxer The Wiz-RD, in which I lament those whose lives were so needlessly lost, and call for those responsible, those “who only count the profit not the human cost”, to be held accountable.

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose music is available via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and see the latest photo campaign here) and the successful We Stand With Shaker campaign of 2014-15, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (click on the following for Amazon in the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US), and for his photo project ‘The State of London’ he publishes a photo a day from six years of bike rides around the 120 postcodes of the capital.

In 2017, Andy became very involved in housing issues. He is the narrator of a new documentary film, ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’, about the destruction of council estates, and the inspiring resistance of residents, he wrote a song ‘Grenfell’, in the aftermath of the entirely preventable fire in June that killed over 70 people, and he also set up ‘No Social Cleansing in Lewisham’ as a focal point for resistance to estate destruction and the loss of community space in his home borough in south east London.

To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, The Complete Guantánamo Files, the definitive Guantánamo habeas list, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.

Please also consider joining the Close Guantánamo campaign, and, if you appreciate Andy’s work, feel free to make a donation.

3 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my latest article, reflecting on the first week of the official Grenfell inquiry, and the profoundly moving testimony of survivors, and linking to Channel 4 News’ interview with Eddie Daffarn, one of the founders of the extraordinary Grenfell Action Group website, who wrote presciently in November 2016 that they “firmly believe that only a catastrophic event will expose the ineptitude and incompetence of our landlord, the KCTMO [Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation], and bring an end to the dangerous living conditions and neglect of health and safety legislation that they inflict upon their tenants and leaseholders”, and who added that “only an incident that results in serious loss of life of KCTMO residents will allow the external scrutiny to occur that will shine a light on the practices that characterise the malign governance of this non-functioning organisation”, and gave, as an example, “a serious fire in a tower block.”
    Eddie Daffarn is an eloquent analyst of the shameful and criminal circumstances that led to what he described as the “totally avoidable” disaster. “If the council, and if the TMO had treated us with a modicum of respect and humanity,” he said, “Grenfell would have been avoided.”
    I hope you have time to watch his powerful testimony, and to hear him talk of how those in social housing are maligned as work-shy and criminals, whereas the truth, as Grenfell showed, is of eloquent, hard-working people completely failed by those who are supposed to look after them.

  2. Tom says...

    Does Theresa May realize that there’s no cure for PTSD?

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    No. She shows little ability to sympathise or empathise with anyone, Tom. A sociopath, I think, and, while clearly delusionally ambitious, she’s not even a very high-functioning sociopath.

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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