The Grenfell Tower inquiry opened yesterday and was an emotional event, especially for all the survivors involved. On the 14th June 2017, a devastating fire broke out shortly after midnight in North Kensington and that building was Grenfell Tower. The 24-storey building rapidly set alight and the fire engulfed the building which caused the deaths of 71 people and made hundreds homeless. The death toll was the highest for any conflagration in the UK for more than a generation.

The start of the inquiry saw emotional tributes made to those who died within the fire, Sir Martin Moore-Bick, pledged that survivors’ testimony would be treated as “integral evidence” in proceedings which could run into 2020.

The inquiry begins

The inquiry got underway and amongst those who spoke were the mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and other family members of those who perished in Grenfell Tower. Perhaps the most poignant moment came when Marcio Gomes, the father of Logan Gomes, who was the youngest victim of Grenfell, stillborn after the mother was in a coma.

This was the single biggest failure of the government in the 21st century and it cost the lives of innocent people. Astoundingly, after the conclusion of the opening statement by Sir Martin, the lawyer who had been working closely with the victims, Michael Mansfield QC, stood up and asked if he could raise some issues, however, he was ignored by the judge which resulted in shouts of “hello?

And “rubbish” as he left the room.

Initially there wasn’t going to be a commemoration hearing but through tireless campaigning and with help from lawyers, Moore-Bick agreed to the hearing after there were concerns that their voices would not be heard. Prior to the hearing, it was set out how the fire started on 14th June at around 12.54am in flat 16, which was located on the 4th floor.

The fire, which started in the kitchen spread quickly and was in the cladding and reached the top of the tower by 1.29am, by 2.54am all four elevations were alight.

It was pointed out to Elizabeth Campbell, leader of Kensington and Chelsea Council, by survivor Nabil Choucair, that he remains in temporary accommodation and that 71 people are in the same position as well as 71 other people and accused those caseworkers were “not showing compassion and care”.

This underlines the failures by the authorities 11 months on and their lack of understanding a compassion to get suitable accommodation sorted.

Furthermore, since family members were granted core participant status in the probe, many of those who have tried to attend the start of the public inquiry were left unable because Home Office visa delays. One Moroccan, Karim Khalloufi, who’s sister died in the fire, was only granted a visa after The Independent had contacted the Home Office.

This highlights further Home Office failings and a perceived desire to silence survivors and their family members alike because this is something they could have fast tracked but currently family members of those who died are still waiting on visa applications, leading to uncertainty over whether they will be able to remain in the country for the duration of the inquiry.

Corporate manslaughter?

BBC Panorama has revealed damning information that could prove corporate manslaughter. The insulation that was used in the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower and was the substance that burned out of control, leading to the whole building being engulfed in flames, had never passed safety tests and by law should never had been placed on the building. Panorama discovered that the manufacturer, Celotex, used extra fire retardant in the product that qualified for the safety certificate. This was then sold for public use by the company.

The insulation, which is called RS5000, also gives off toxic fumes containing cyanide and it is to be noted that almost all of the 72 people who died, were killed by the fumes.

The plastic foam insulation made by Celotex is used in hundreds of other buildings across the country and the company say they are working with authorities but the investigation by the BBC also revealed that they knowingly misled buyers.

The safety test that was used by Celotex only showed that the insulation could be used on certain new builds when it was combined with a specific fire-proof cladding panel, however, the way in which Celotex marketed the product, suggested that it was usable with other cladding panels as well.

They were repeatedly warned about the marketing but refused to do anything about it because it would lose them profit, Incidentally, in 2012 Celotex were bought out by Saint-Gobain, a French multinational that produces construction and high-performance material, and one of their investors are Blackrock, the same one that employs former chancellor, George Osborne. Celotex have expressed their deepest sympathies and as previously mentioned, claim they are “co-operating fully” with the inquiries.