Prime Minister Theresa May has admitted she will “always regret” failing to meet the survivors of the Grenfell Tower tragedy the day after the catastrophic blaze.
Writing in the London Evening Standard newspaper ahead of the anniversary of the tragedy, May conceded her actions in the immediate aftermath were “not good enough” and gave the impression people in power didn’t care about survivors’ plight.
“It was a tragedy unparalleled in recent history and, although many people did incredible work during and after the fire, it has long been clear that the initial response was not good enough,” she said.
“I include myself in that.
“The day after the disaster I made the first of a number of trips to the site, thanking the firefighters for their work and holding a short meeting with the team in charge of the response.
“What I did not do on that first visit, was meet the residents and survivors who had escaped the blaze.
“But the residents of Grenfell Tower needed to know that those in power recognised and understood their despair.”
It comes as memorial services to the victims of the inferno that cost 72 lives are planned this week. Events close to the scene will include a vigil, prayers, wreaths and candles.
On her first visit to the scene of the inferno, May met with police and firefighters dealing with the still-smouldering tower in west London.
But the PM avoided contact with members of the public as anger at the scale of the tragedy had begun to erupt.
Community groups were outraged that she did not extend her stay to listen to survivors. Video footage later showed her being booed as people in the crowd shouted “resign” and “stand down”.
Jeremy Corbyn, meanwhile, was praised for his response as he made a point of meeting victims in public and was photographed hugging a woman holding a poster of a missing 12-year-old girl.
In her article, May said there could be no “foot-dragging” in the quest for justice, adding: “Only that way can individuals and organisations found to be at fault be properly held to account for their actions.
“Only that way can justice be done.”
She said she understood the agony of people who had lost all photographs and physical reminders of their loves ones. “Nothing can ever replace the mementoes of many years spent together,” she said.
Her “overwhelming priorities” in the past year were to give new homes to survivors and deliver justice to the bereaved.
New homes had been found for 198 out of 203 households and more than £46m spent on the response and recovery effort.
Memorial events this week will see the grieving north Kensington community come together for a 24-hour vigil starting on the eve of Thursday’s anniversary.
At 1.30am, the names of the fire’s victims will be read out at St Clements’ church. At midday on the anniversary, survivors and the bereaved will gather close to the tower’s base to observe a minute’s silence.
The tower is to be completely covered by white sheeting, with banners featuring the green Grenfell heart and the words “Grenfell forever in our hearts” emblazoned across the four highest floors.
Following the midday silence, the community are expected to gather at the nearby “Wall of Truth” ahead of a silent march which will set off around 7pm.
In a show of solidarity, 12 tower blocks in the surrounding area will be illuminated in green.
The buildings, including Grenfell, will be lit up from 00.54am on Thursday – the time the fire is thought to have started – until 5am. For the following four evenings they will be illuminated from dusk until midnight.