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The victims of the Stardust fire The Journal
Evidence summary

Stardust: Coroner tells jury they must be 'arbiters of the facts'

Dr Cullinane told jurors they have the most important role in these proceedings and a point has now been reached where this role “crystallises”.

THE JURORS AT the Stardust inquest have been told that they are the “arbiters of the facts” and it is for them to decide what evidence they accept and what evidence they reject when it comes to making their findings and returning a verdict.

Speaking as she began a summary of the evidence today, Coroner Dr Myra Cullinane emphasised that the evidence at these inquests has been “vast” with 373 witnesses to fact, three forensic pathologists and three fire experts heard over approximately 95 days of witness testimony.

Dr Cullinane told the panel that they have the most important role in these proceedings and a point has now been reached where this role “crystallises”.

She reminded the jury that they have already heard all of this evidence in person and have also had the opportunity to review it on days when they were not required to sit in court.

The coroner said she was therefore not proposing – nor would it be practical – to rehearse all of this evidence in detail and instead would take the jury through parts of the evidence which may be relevant insofar as any findings they must make are concerned.

However, she added: “You base your deliberations and your ultimate findings on all of the evidence you have heard and not confined to what is contained in these summaries.”

Before her summation got underway, Dr Cullinane told the panel that they have displayed great commitment and attention to the often-distressing evidence at these proceedings.

“Yours is the most important role in these inquests and now we reach a point where your role crystallises. You now take on the responsibility of considering all of the evidence, making your findings and returning your verdict.”

She added: “You are the arbiters of the facts. I may summarise the evidence over the next few days, but the facts are for you.”

The coroner said that once she has concluded the summary of the evidence, she will instruct the jury on the law as it applies to their deliberations, explaining what findings they are required to make, what findings they are entitled to make and what verdicts are available to them to be returned.

Dr Cullinane said she also intends to go through a list of questions that she has prepared with her legal team that the jury will be required to consider and answer, and which will assist them in structuring their findings.

“Notwithstanding the tragic circumstances of the 48 deaths whose inquests are drawing to a close, it’s expected you will approach your task in an objective manner when considering the facts and applying the law as it will be set out to you,” she added.

Dr Cullinane said she would go through the evidence in a largely chronological manner and would attempt to follow the modules in which the jury has heard evidence.

She said she would begin by outlining the evidence heard on planning matters and the conversion of the Stardust premises.

This would be followed, the coroner said, by a summary of what the jury heard in relation to a number of events occurring in the period of time in the lead up  to the night of the fire, followed by the evidence of the patrons of the Stardust, both before an after the night of 13 February, 1981, the residents in the local area and the emergency services.

The coroner said she would conclude by summarising the expert evidence of both the pathologists and the fire experts.

“You’ll note in these summaries there’ll be certain discrepancies or conflicts or contradictions in the evidence of the various witnesses and it’s for you to consider these conflicts and it is for you to accept or reject the evidence that you’ve heard,” she said.

The summary of the evidence given by the coroner today included information in relation to planning and design matters at the Stardust.

Dr Cullinane brought the jury through an outline of evidence given by various professionals involved in the conversion of the building in the years before the Stardust opened to the public including architects, architectural draughtsmen, building surveyors, electrical inspectors as well as sales people and representatives for the company involved in supplying carpet tiles used to line the walls of the club.

She recapped testimony from former staff and patrons relating to a smoke-like substance and intense heat noticed in the weeks before the fire.

Dr Cullinane also summarised the evidence given by company director Patrick Butterly (now deceased) to the Tribunal of Inquiry before Justice Ronan Keane in 1981 as well as the testimony of former Stardust manager Eamon Butterly and the evidence of a number of doormen and bar staff at the club.