Stardust fire disaster: redress scheme for victims’ families ‘likely’, Martin says

Families will be contacted over supports such as counselling and what form a national commemoration should take, says Simon Harris

There will “likely” be a redress scheme for victims of the Stardust fire tragedy, Micheál Martin has said.

The Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs told reporters during a trip to Amman, Jordan, on Wednesday that the State did not respond “properly” in the aftermath of the fire that claimed the lives of 48 young people in a nightclub in Artane, north Dublin in 1981.

The Fianna Fáil leader said it was a “very important day” in the Dáil on Tuesday, where Taoiseach Simon Harris gave a State apology, adding that Mr Harris had spoken on behalf of all three parties in Government.

Mr Martin said there would likely be a redress scheme and he would be meeting representatives of the families affected.


“I think we need to talk first to the families in terms of next steps, in respect of redress, or how we can further help the families,” he said.

The Tánaiste said the State had an “adversarial legal system” which didn’t “lend itself to proper examination of situations like this”. Mr Martin also said there were many issues that needed to be “ventilated” following the fire and the 1981 inquiry’s conclusion of arson was “wrong” which led to other consequences.

“I think we do need to seriously look at how we respond and how the victim must always be centre and the loved ones of victims and survivors are centre to whatever mechanisms we develop to investigate situations,” he said.

The Taoiseach said on Wednesday he intends to issue personal apologies to the families affected by the Stardust fire, while the Government will also look at providing supports such as counselling.

Speaking on Wednesday morning, Mr Harris thanked the Stardust families for travelling to the Dáil to hear the official State apology.

“I want to thank the Stardust families for engaging, I understand why engaging with the State is not an easy or pleasant thing for the families to do having been betrayed by the State over 43 years.

“I delivered a State apology yesterday, I now intend to issue a personal letter of apology to the families. I want to get it right, I want to work with their team on that and I want to do it as quickly as possible. The second issue, and this came up in my meeting with families, is counselling. We will reach out to people very shortly in relation to providing supports.”

Mr Harris also said although he has ideas around what form a national commemoration should take, there will be direct engagement to determine what will happen.

“We did also make a decision at Cabinet that the attorney general and Ministers will consider the inquest recommendations. So they are the next four things I will consider in the immediate term.”

It comes after Mr Harris apologised “unreservedly” to the families of the 48 victims.

Delivering a formal State apology in the Dáil on Tuesday, Mr Harris said: “The families gathered here today and their loved ones who perished, the family members who are no longer with us, and all those who suffered horrific injuries were the victims of a mass tragedy.

“Instead, it is to our great and eternal shame that far from the warm embrace of a caring State, the Stardust family experienced a cold shoulder, a deaf ear and two generations of struggle for truth and justice,” he said.

An inquest jury last week returned a verdict that all victims were unlawfully killed in the tragedy. It comes after a previous finding in 1982 that the fire had been started deliberately.

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times