Belfast Telegraph

Families of Stardust fire victims meet with Taoiseach to garner inquest support

The Stardust Campaign group previously petitioned the Attorney General for the new inquest.

A plaque in memory of the 48 people who died in the Stardust nightclub fire in Dublin (Niall Carson/PA)
A plaque in memory of the 48 people who died in the Stardust nightclub fire in Dublin (Niall Carson/PA)

Survivors and families of victims who died in the Stardust fire met with the Taoiseach in a bid to garner his support for a fresh inquest into the atrocity.

Forty eight people died in the fire at the popular Stardust nightclub in Artane, Dublin at a Valentine’s Day disco in 1981.

The Stardust Campaign group previously petitioned the Attorney General for the new inquest.

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The scene following a fire at the Stardust nightclub in Artane (PA)

Families have been told that the Attorney General will make a decision before July 16.

Campaigners say fresh evidence and new witness statements about the night of the fire provide enough assurance that a new inquest should be opened.

Only one emergency phone call is on public record from the night of the fire, but campaigners say they have a signed statement from a woman who claims she made a second call about a fire on the roof of the nightclub.

The group also says it has evidence that the Electrical Supply Board had written to the owners of the Stardust about faulty electrical wiring before the fire occurred, all of which, it says, is crucial to the timing and cause of the fire.

Officials originally ruled that the cause of the fire was arson, a theory that was never accepted by the families.

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The Stardust Justice Campaign (Lynn Boylan/PA)

Despite findings of safety breaches, there were no prosecutions over the incident.

Investigations into the fire showed that a number of escape routes from the dance hall were blocked as emergency doors were locked by chains, concerns have also been raised about the investigation of the scene, which allowed politicians and media to walk through the building just days after the fire.

Solicitor Darragh Mackin, from Phoenix Law, said there is considerable fresh evidence and witness testimony which “depicts a very different picture” than that was told to the families.

He said: “As the Taoiseach has considerable weight we say he should put it behind and support the application given the wider public interest for the families, and the wider Irish public, in establishing the truth.

“The reality is there has been for too long ineffective investigations into the atrocity.

“It can never be acceptable that the families are left to investigate the atrocity of this magnitude themselves without any State-funded or effective body to ascertain and examine the relevant evidence.

“We say that the request by the families is a minimal one. It’s simply to establish an inquest which can investigate and examine all of the evidence, which they collated, and come to a conclusion of how the fire started.

“It cannot be situation where families are left in limbo where they simply do not know the full facts or the truth of the events.”

Antoinette Keegan, who survived the fire but lost her sisters Mary and Martina in the tragedy, said they remain hopeful that an inquest will be established.

She said: “The meeting went fairly well. The Taoiseach listened to us and he took our concerns into consideration.

“Some of the issues he wasn’t aware of but he listened and observed and reflected on a few things.

“We have met three different Taoiseachs over three decades. We are now hopeful that between the Taoiseach and the Attorney General the inquest will be reopened.

“We need a verdict recorded and we have waited 38 years to have a verdict.”

A spokesman for the Taoiseach said: “It was a very good meeting with the families.

“Both sides engaged fully and constructively.”

PA

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