California adopts new law in light of Berkeley balcony collapse

Six Irish students lost their lives in June 2015

California adopts new law in light of Berkeley balcony collapse

An Irish flag is draped over wreaths at the Library Gardens apartment complex in Berkeley, California on June 16th, 2015 | Image: Jeff Chiu / AP/Press Association Images

The Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan has welcomed the adoption of a new building regulations law by the US State of California.

Six Irish students lost their lives in June 2015, when a balcony collapsed during 21st birthday celebrations.

Eoghan Culligan, Lórcán Miller, Niccolai Schuster, Eimear Walsh, Ashley Donohoe and Olivia Burke were all killed.

Seven other people - Aoife Beary, Clodagh Cogley, Sean Fahy, Conor Flynn, Jack Halpin, Niall Murray and Hannah Waters - were also seriously injured.

Ms Beary gave evidence to a public hearing last month.

SB 465 is a bill adopted by the Californian legislature for stronger building standards, mandatory inspections and standardised training for building inspectors in regard to balconies and related structures.

It is also seen as a first step in gathering information on prior settlements involving negligence on the part of contractors and builders.

The measures were signed into law by the Governor of California, Jerry Brown.

Berkeley victims Eimear Walsh, Eoghan Culligan, Olivia Burke, Lorcan Miller, Ashley Donohoe and Niccolai Schuster

Minister Flanagan has commended the advocacy of those affected by the tragedy.

"The adoption of this new law is a testament to the tireless advocacy of those directly affected by the horrific Berkeley balcony collapse which resulted in the deaths and injuries of a number of Irish students over a year ago.

"This change to the law, which is aimed at preventing future accidents by improving standards, would not have been possible without the pressure which they brought to bear and the brave testimony which they gave in the course of the lengthy legislative process.

"Their tireless efforts and engagement - led by Jackie Donohoe and assisted by the Irish Consulate in San Francisco - made a vital difference in countering opposition and ensuring the unanimous support of both houses of the California State legislature."

Jackie Donohoe is the US-based mother of Ashley Donohoe who, along with her cousin Olivia Burke, was killed in the collapse.

Minister Flanagan also thanked California's public representatives - especially Senators Jerry Hill and Lonnie Hancock who sponsored the bill, and the members of the state legislature's Irish Caucus.

"This legislation is but one step in a broader process which the Irish Government hopes will ensure that no other family has to endure the loss and injury suffered by our students, their families and friends in Berkeley a year ago", Mr Flanagan added.

"The support and friendship which the families affected continue to receive from the people of California, especially its strong Irish community, is exceptional. It is my hope that where California leads in improved standards to protect lives, other states and countries will follow."

Minister of State for the Diaspora Joe McHugh attended the signing event.