Firefighters and first responders who worked to save lives during the Grenfell Tower fire have not been recognised in this year’s Queen’s birthday honours, sparking criticism among some campaigners who have accused the government of “downplaying” the disaster for a second time.
Emergency workers faced devastating scenes when they were called to the 24-storey tower blaze in North Kensington on June 14 last year. The fire resulted in the deaths of 72 people and is currently the subject of a public inquiry and an ongoing criminal investigation.
First responders were lauded as heroes in the wake of the disaster, but for a second time since the blaze their names have been omitted from the honours list, having failed to be recognised in the New Year’s honours six months ago.
The campaign group, Justice for Grenfell, said it was a “sham” that first responders from the night of the fire have not been recognised. A spokesperson for the group said: “The emergency responders and people on the ground went above and beyond the call of duty in the days, weeks and months following the fire.
“And to not be recognised again for their heroic acts is an absolute sham.”
In December questions were raised over why the New Year’s honours list did not include heroes of the Grenfell Tower fire, as well as the first responders to the Manchester and London terror attacks.
But as was pointed out at the time, the honours process can take many months to complete, with a government secretariat receiving 10,000 enquiries from the public each year, resulting in around 3,000 nominations.
A Cabinet Office spokesperson told HuffPost in December that “we would expect to see a number of nominations reflecting recent tragedies and events in future lists, and encourage those in affected communities to put forward nominations”.
In the wake of the latest omission, the Government has again reiterated that Grenfell respondents will be recognised “at the earliest opportunity”.
A Cabinet spokesperson said on Friday: “It is right that we honour the acts of bravery and extraordinary community spirit shown during the tragic events last year, and we will do so at the earliest opportunity.
“We have consulted with community groups and the emergency services to agree the right approach to recognising those involved, considering inquests and investigations where appropriate.
“Our approach will be community driven, time appropriate and sensitive to the on going local recovery.”
Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Police revealed on Thursday that they are investigating the fire brigade’s “stay put” directive issued to residents on the night of the blaze.
The policy has been the focus of intense scrutiny and was highly criticised during the first week of the public inquiry this week. The Grenfell Tower Inquiry heard that more than 700 fire service personnel were involved in the response to the disaster.
So who was honoured?
In total 1,057 people have received an award in the Queen’s birthday honours list.
Although firefighters and first responders to the Grenfell Tower disaster may have missed out, one of the people to walking away with an honour is the outgoing boss of Network Rail, Mark Carne.
Carne, who announced his departure as chief executive of Network Rail in February, has been made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
But the announcement is unlikely to sit well with commuters, following unprecedented chaos on the railway networks this week.
Commuters across the North have faced weeks of rail chaos with thousands left stranded after trains were cancelled or severely delayed when Govia Thameslink Railway and Northern trains launched new timetables.
Meanwhile, Liverpool football great Kenny Dalglish is to be been knighted for his steadfast support for the Hillsborough families in their lengthy quest for justice following the 1989 disaster that claimed 96 lives.
Author Kazuo Ishiguro will also receive a knighthood, less than a year after winning the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Ishiguro said he was “proud of Britain, its open, democratic traditions and literary culture”.
Leading actresses Emma Thompson and Keira Knightley have also been honoured. Thompson, a stalwart of the big and small screen since the late 1980s, has been made a Dame for services to drama and Knightley will receive a OBE for services to drama and charity.
Rapper Ms Dynamite will be recognised with an MBE for services to music and footballer Jermain Defoe is to receive a OBE for services to football and the Jermain Defoe Foundation.
In what might be the most heartwarming inclusion, Britain’s longest selling poppy seller, Rosemary Powell, is to receive an MBE.
At 103, Powell, a former nurse in the Second World War, finally decided to stop selling poppies, Sky News reported earlier this month. She had done so for 97 years.
Powell began selling poppies at the age of six with her mother for the Royal British Legion’s first Poppy Appeal in 1921.