'Heartbreaking': Father of Limerick fire victims Gavin and Millie breaks silence

Fintan Walsh

Reporter:

Fintan Walsh

Niall McNamara, father of Millie and Gavin

Niall McNamara, father of Millie and Gavin

THE FATHER of Millie and Gavin Murray, who suffered horrific burns after being petrol bombed in September 2006, has broken his 11 years of silence over the barbaric attack and its “heartbreaking” aftermath.

In an interview with the Limerick Leader, 46-year-old dad Niall McNamara has hit out at the regeneration project after enduring his hardship with homelessness for 15 months.

Speaking from his car in Garryowen, where he sleeps at night, Mr McNamara also told of the “heartbreaking” experience of being with his two children during their hospital treatment.

On September 10, 2006, a six-year-old Millie and four-year-old Gavin were in their mother’s car when a plastic bottle filled with petrol was set alight and thrown in through the rear window.

The siblings required skin grafts and surgery for years as a result of the serious burns.

This brutal attack was flagged as the “tipping point” in the original regeneration “masterplan” report in 2008. 

But Mr McNamara, previously of Moyross, said he “feels let down big time” by the regeneration housing programme, and “it feels like I burnt my children”.

Niall, who is in receipt of disability allowance, said that he has been on the housing waiting list since his children were attacked.

“When you’re up there every day taking off their bandages, and there is a piece of their skin peeling off, and every time they had to get a bandage changed or a cream put on, they had to be put under anaesthetic. It was very heartbreaking. It was very hard. From the day they went to hospital ‘til the day they left the hospital, I never left the hospital,” he told the Leader. 

He added: “This Regeneration, with all these houses being knocked in Moyross and Southill and everywhere, that is over Millie and Gavin getting burnt. I am their father, and they never offered me a house.”

He said that when developments happen with regeneration, Millie and Gavin’s name are brought up. 

“Yet, they won’t house their father. I feel let down big time. It feels like I burnt my children, more or less. They way they are treating me, it feels like I burnt my children. It hurts, you know what I mean?” he said. 

Mr McNamara said that Millie and Gavin, who are now 17 and 15, “are flying it, thanks be to God” and are both attending secondary school.

Mr McNamara became homeless in 2016 when his landlord in Rhebogue sold the property. Ever since, he says he has slept in the back seat of his Toyota Corolla — the same model as the car in which Millie and Gavin were attacked.

Niall was previously at St Patrick’s Hostel on Clare Street for around two months.

In recent months, especially during numerous weather warnings, he has spent a lot of his time couchsurfing from house to house in Garryowen to avoid the cold.

One back seat window was smashed in recent weeks, and is now only covered with a bin bag.

After he was forced into homelessness, he first resorted to the nine-to-nine emergency shelter on Edward Street.

“The two days were grand, but on the third day, I knew I wasn’t right. So I never went back there. So I stayed in the car for a long time.”

If he doesn’t stay in the car in Garryowen, he will sometimes stay at his friend’s house in Castleconnell, he said. 

“Or I might stay outside my ex-girl’s house, because my son will come out and give me a cup of tea,” he said with a tea by his side, as he sat in the driver’s seat. 

“The other night when it was really bad weather, I stayed at my friend’s house,” he said, explaining that it is not permanent. “The thing is, I don’t want to be staying with a man and his wife and his children. I just wouldn’t like that, but my friends help me around the whole time.”

To keep himself warm, Niall has to heat the car every few hours.

“I just start the car, let it tick over and then knock it off after using the heater. I then go to sleep for two or three hours, and wake up then, just to start it again.”

He explained that a number of family members have accommodation, but he said they are too cramped for him to stay permanently with any of them.

Three men were sentenced in connection with the brutal petrol bombing in 2006.

Limerick City and County Council did not respond to a request for comment in relation to Mr McNamara’s homelessness situation.