Stardust families protest over access to report

Thu, Jan 15, 2009, 00:00

FOUR RELATIVES of Stardust fire victims are to resume their wait at Government Buildings this morning after a seven-hour sit-in yesterday.

They are seeking a date for when they will receive a report on the State’s examination of a case for a reopened inquiry into the Stardust fire disaster.

Some 48 young people died in the 1981 Stardust nightclub inferno in north Dublin.

The four women waited from midday in the security hut at the Taoiseach’s department on Merrion Street hoping to meet with a Government official. Apart from initial contact no representative came to see them until the building was locked at 7pm.

A Department of the Taoiseach spokesman said its position was that a channel of communications had been agreed through the legal team for the families.

The report by Paul Coffey SC was given to the Government on December 16th and referred to the Attorney General for legal advice. The families had expected to receive the report before Christmas. They now want it before the 28th anniversary of the fire on February 14th.

The Department of Justice has received the report and a spokesman said the Government was “considering it” but was unable to say when it would be given to the families.

Antoinette Keegan, a spokeswoman for the Stardust Victims Committee who lost her sisters Martina and Mary in the blaze, said she was upset that the report was given to both the Attorney General and the Department of Justice before it was given to the families.

“It is a disgrace the way the families are being treated,” she said.

Ms Keegan said she assumed the report must contain “something they don’t want us to have, otherwise they would just send a press release to say there was no new evidence and no different interpretation”.

Antoinette’s mother Christine was angry yesterday. “We are being treated the same as 28 years ago, this is no different at all,” she said.

Brid McDermott, whose children William, George and Marcella were killed in the fire, said she was “very hurt” at the way the families were being treated and felt let down by the Government.

“Why are they making such fools of us . . . It would take five or 10 minutes to come down and see us, that’s very little. But they degrade us. We are the parents of children that died. Shame on our country,” she said.

Gertrude Barrett, the mother of victim Michael, said “it was appalling being dismissed”. She said the group had put “blood, sweat and tears” into making a submission for the report. “It is not easy reading your child’s coroner’s report,”she said.

Ms Barrett vowed to continue fighting. “I’d go to hell if I hadn’t already been there,” she said.

The group said it will take the case against the Government to European courts if necessary if it does not get to see the report. The families had understood they would receive the report within days of the Government receiving it.

“There is nothing in law to say they can withhold that information from us. We were entitled to get that information first-hand along with the Government,” Ms Keegan said.

Solicitor for the families Greg O’Neill said that seeking legal advice should not stop the Government from publishing the report.

He said the deaths of 48 people was a public not a private matter. “The process of the Government taking advice is a separate process from the process of giving the report to families and making public Mr Coffey’s findings and recommendations,” he said on RTÉ radio yesterday.