Belfast Telegraph

Stardust fire families urge Attorney General to decide on fresh inquest

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

Friends and relatives of those killed in the 1981 Stardust tragedy bring their case for a new inquest to the Attorney General’s office in Dublin (Niall Carson/PA)
Friends and relatives of those killed in the 1981 Stardust tragedy bring their case for a new inquest to the Attorney General’s office in Dublin (Niall Carson/PA)

By Aine McMahon, PA

Survivors and families of victims who died in the Stardust fire 38 years ago have called on the Attorney General to decide on a new inquest into the incident on Wednesday.

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 Victims Committee submitted their case for new inquests in April and were was told that a decision would be made and communicated to them in mid-July. That was later put back to August, and then September 20.

Last week, the families were told they will be informed of the Attorney General’s decision on Wednesday, but expressed fears the decision could be postponed again.

The Stardust Victims Committee and families gathered outside AG Seamus Woulfe’s office in Dublin on Tuesday to ask him to reveal when the new inquest will be granted.

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

Committee member Antoinette Keegan, whose sisters Mary, 19, and Martina, 16, were killed in the fire, claimed the families “are tired of being fobbed off” by the State.

“We are calling on the office of the AG to give us a decision by the close of business September 25 – a decision we hope will be positive – so that we can finally have a true verdict recorded for the 48 victims who perished in this disaster 38 years ago,” she said.

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.

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.

Ms Keegan described the delays in getting a fresh inquest as “mental torment”.

“You’re waiting in anticipation to hear from the Attorney General with a response but then it is put off again and you’re told to wait again – it is mental torment and it is causing untold stress,” she said.

Ms Keegan said the group are going to make a complaint to the Council Of Europe over how they say they have been treated over the years by the different governments.

PA

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