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State Papers 1985: Garret Fitzgerald's government wasn't too keen on helping Stardust victims

An official wanted a redress scheme kept well away from the Taoiseach’s department.

Taoiseach Garret Fitzgerald announcing the 1985 scheme.
Taoiseach Garret Fitzgerald announcing the 1985 scheme.

AN OFFICIAL IN the office of the then-taoiseach Garret Fitzgerald wanted a 1985 redress scheme for victims of the Stardust fire disaster kept “as far away from this department as possible”.

Minutes of a government meeting from the time show that an unnamed advisor to the Taoiseach was worried that a new compensation scheme could cause “chaos” if a minister didn’t take responsibility for it.

He didn’t, however, want that responsibility anywhere near his office.

The confidential documents from the Department of the Taoiseach in October 1985 have been released under the 30 year rule.

Notes for the cabinet meeting show that the Stardust scheme was second on the agenda with Fitzgerald’s department clearly concerned about how it was going to work. The notes show the official saying the following:

Unless ministerial responsibility for the administration of this scheme is fixed soon, there will be chaos. Who is to deal with applications? Who is to advise on compensation? Who will deal with parliamentary questions?

He goes on to suggest that the departments of Justice or Environment are best placed to deal with the scheme.

“Essentially, I think that the whole issue, which will involve a lot of detailed work, and could be highly controversial, should be kept as far from this department as possible.”

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The Taoiseach’s advisor is referring to a scheme for the almost 300 people who’d sought compensation for the 1981 Valentine’s Day fire at the Stardust club in Artane in Dublin.

A total of 48 people died in the worst fire disaster in the history of the state with 128 other people seriously hurt.

The new State-funded scheme was chaired by High Court Judge Dónal Barrington and was to decide the level of compensation for the victims.

The claimants could either accept the level of award offered and forgo further legal proceedings, or turn down the award and proceed with their legal action in the normal way.

Read: Stardust campaigners to hand new information to Minister over fatal fire >

Read: Stardust campaigners met with Frances Fitzgerald but weren’t happy with the outcome >

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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