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'Do the right thing. Finally lift the lid on this': Stardust activists urge end to delay on inquest decision

Families of the victims have urged the Attorney General to grant new inquests, but that decision has been delayed a number of times.

Campaigners in Merrion Square today.
Campaigners in Merrion Square today.

FAMILIES OF THOSE who died in the Stardust fire have urged the Attorney General to reveal his decision on whether there should be new inquests for the victims of the 1981 tragedy.

After submitting their case for new inquests in April, the Stardust Victims Committee was told that a decision would be made and communicated to them in mid July. That was later pushed back to August, and then to 20 September.

Last Friday, families were told that tomorrow is the date when they’ll be told of the Attorney General’s decision. 

Speaking outside the AG Seamus Woulfe’s office today, Solidarity-PBP’s Richard Boyd Barrett said: “I would appeal to the Attorney General, please come out here and give your decision to these families and make it the right decision.

Do the right thing and finally lift the lid on this tragedy, so that we can get the truth, closure and justice the families deserve.

In the early hours of 14 February 1981, a devastating fire ripped through the Stardust fire in Artane, north Dublin. 48 people died, and over 200 were injured.

The subsequent Tribunal of Inquiry heard that a practice of locking emergency exits had existed at the Stardust and that, on the night of the fire, one of these exits had remained locked the entire evening.

It suggested that the fire started in a side alcove away from the main ballroom of the nightclub, but other evidence highlighted by the families in recent times has claimed it started in the roof space.

That Tribunal also found that arson was the probable cause of the fire, despite no evidence that the fire had been started deliberately. No arsonist was ever apprehended.

After families renewed their fight to get justice for their loved ones from the early 2000s, a subsequent inquiry in 2009 recommended that arson be formally struck from the Dáil record and acknowledged it as not being the cause of the fire. 

Retired judge Pat McCartan was then tasked in 2017 with examining whether there would be grounds to hold a new inquest into the fire. He ruled that a new inquiry was not warranted, saying there was no new evidence.

Families, however, do believe they have strong evidence and now want fresh inquests to finally get onto the path to secure definitive answers on what happened to their loved ones. 

Antoinette Keegan, who was at the Stardust that night and lost her sisters Mary and Martina, said today that families cannot understand why they’ve been told on four occasions they’d be given a decision on the inquests only to have that date postponed.

She said: “The repeat postponements have caused us a huge amount of stress. While we’re not suggesting your office is intentionally trying to cause us pain, that is the consequence of these delays.”

Keegan urged Attorney General Woulfe to provide that decision tomorrow as indicated. She also called on a new code of practice to be developed so that others in similar situations are not given deadlines that are subsequently not kept on such vital decisions.

Former Sinn Féin MEP Lynn Boylan, who’s been working with the families and victims, told reporters today: “There needs to be a code of practice. No one is saying he’s intentionally causing further distress.

I’ve witnessed the stress they’ve gone through over the summer. The sleepless nights… Ireland doesn’t have a good record of dealing with victims.

Boyd Barrett added: “Justice delayed is justice denied.”

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Sean Murray

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