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Grenfell: Honest Answers and Rebuilding Trust

A few days after the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower, a colleague and I were at the site, looking at the moving tributes, messages and flowers in memory of those who lost their lives. As we lingered there that evening, the protest march that started at Kensington Town Hall walked – calmly but determinedly – towards Latimer Road. The chant which echoed around those streets was passionate, simple and clear: ‘What do we want? Justice. When do we want it? Now.’ Again and again this plea for justice – for failings to be acknowledged, for wrongs to be righted – can be stripped down to a lack of trust.

The Bishop of Kensington, Rev Dr Graham Tomlin, who has been playing a key role in advocating for the local community, has emphasised how pervasive the atmosphere of mistrust has become. He writes, “One of the key tasks facing those involved in the longer-term future of North Kensington is rebuilding trust. That task is long, takes careful determination and will not be done quickly. It requires repeated promises fulfilled, honest answers and a will from both sides to make it work.”

‘Honest answers’ are precisely what are needed as the Public Inquiry begins in earnest. This week Sir Martin Moore-Bick, chair of the Grenfell Inquiry, closes the consultation period for those affected to submit their representations as to what the terms of reference should include. These terms of reference are fundamental to this pursuit of justice: only if the right questions are being asked, can there be the chance for honest answers to be given.

The questions that must be asked are far-reaching: for instance, what specific legal failings have occurred in issues of health and safety compliance; whether legislation goes far enough to protect tenants and why laws may have been loosened over the years; and whether and how the RBKC’s immediate response after the fire may have failed vulnerable survivors. Countless other questions need to be asked. But the real success of this Inquiry will rest not simply on the questions asked, but on the answers given. Upfront, undiluted honesty is what is required, and then the long, slow walk to rebuilding trust can begin. As the Bishop has said, quoting Martin Luther, ‘only trust makes things right.’

See Dr Tomlin’s article in The Independent here.