Stardust victims’ families reject ‘irrational’ report on 1981 fire

Retired judge Pat McCartan found no new inquiry into tragedy warranted

Families  have condemned the judge’s report as ‘rude and aggressive’ and ‘a shambles’. Photograph: Tom Lawlor

Families have condemned the judge’s report as ‘rude and aggressive’ and ‘a shambles’. Photograph: Tom Lawlor

 

Families of some of the 48 people who died in the Stardust nightclub fire have rejected a report recommending that there should be no new inquiry into the 1981 tragedy.

They describe the tone of the report by retired judge Pat McCartan as “rude, aggressive and irrational”, adding they will seek legal advice on how to take forward their campaign for a new inquiry into the cause of the fire.

Mr McCartan’s report, published by the Government on Tuesday, concludes that no new inquiry “is warranted”.

The former judge was appointed by the Government in March to assess new information, gathered by the families over the past eight years, which they argue points to the fire having started in the roof-space of the nightclub and not on a seat, as had been found by the original 1982 inquiry.

A total of 48 young people died and scores were injured in the fire that engulfed the venue in Artane, Dublin on the night of February 13th/14th, 1981.

Mr McCartan’s report is critical of the manner in which information was presented to him by the families, and by their voluntary researcher, Geraldine Foy.

He refers to her qualification as a horticulturist, saying she had “no medical, engineering or other scientific qualification that would make her an expert and allow her to give a professional view on matters relevant to the cause, spread or impact of the Stardust fire”.

‘Incoherent’

Her presentation was “rambling, argumentative, disorganised and at times incoherent”, he says, adding, “it is very difficult to understand what items of evidence this assessment was being asked to examine.”

Antoinette Keegan, who was in the Stardust on the night and who lost her sisters Mary (19) and Martina (16), described the report as “a shambles”.

“We reject it. It slags us. It slags Geraldine and it slags our solicitor. There was no need for that,” she said. “We have been let down again. Finian McGrath has let us down.”

Mr McCartan’s appointment followed a compromise brokered by Mr McGrath, an Independent Alliance Minister of State in whose constituency the fire occurred.

His constituency colleague, Independents4Change TD Tommy Broughan, had tabled a Dáil motion in January calling for a new inquiry.

Following two days of talks, during which Mr McGrath was under intense pressure to vote for the Broughan motion, the Government agreed instead to appoint an independent legal expert to look at the families’ evidence.

Accepted

Mr McCartan’s 49-page report says while it is evident the fire was in the roof space, the new information provided did not explain the cause of the fire.

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said he accepted the report’s conclusion.

“I understand the pain of the relatives is compounded by the failure to discover the cause of the fire, but this report concludes no new inquiry is warranted.”

Mr McGrath said he accepted the report but was disappointed by its conclusion. He praised the Stardust relatives and victims committee and singled out the voluntary work of Ms Foy.

Mr Broughan said he was bitterly disappointed by the report and its criticism of Ms Foy. “It is extraordinary that when someone does a submission that you would have comments about somebody’s qualifications per se. It’s an astonishing polemic in many respects.

“I had reservations about the route that was being taken by Mr McGrath at the time. He should have gone for a Commission of Investigation rather than another review,” he said.