DPP says no prosecutions from 1981 Stardust inquiry

Director of Public Prosecutions indicates no action over alleged perjury by witnesses

Aftermath of the Stardust fire. Photograph: Tom Lawlor/The Irish Times

Aftermath of the Stardust fire. Photograph: Tom Lawlor/The Irish Times

 

The Director of Public Prosecutions has said it will not mount a prosecution into alleged perjury by several witnesses at the 1981 tribunal of investigation into the Stardust fire.

Gardaí opened a criminal investigation in 2013 into concerns over evidence given by several tribunal witnesses.

It followed a complaint made by Geraldine Foy, the researcher working on the case for more than 10 years. Ms Foy said fresh evidence had emerged more than 20 years later contradicting that given at the original hearing.

The evidence relates to physical aspects of the Stardust premises’ interior and to 999 phone calls regarding eyewitness reports of a fire on the roof of the building, as opposed to the tribunal’s finding that it began inside the disco.

The families had argued that while the tribunal evidence was flawed, the fresh material should justify another inquiry. They were also hopeful the new Garda investigation might uncover further evidence.

However, last September, the DPP decided that no prosecution would be forthcoming.

In subsequent correspondence in December, following the request of a review of that decision by families, the DPP again said no further action would follow.

“In your letter you request a review of the decision not to prosecute arising from a Garda investigation file submitted to this office in relation to allegations of attempting to pervert the course of justice and perjury,” it said.

No explanation

However, the office did outline the legal position. It said tribunals are separate from courts of law and, as such, the offence, or allegations of an offence, of perjury falls under separate legislation, namely the Tribunal of Inquiry (Evidence) Act, 1921 and later amendments.

Ms Foy and Antoinette Keegan of the Stardust Victims Committee and Families group said they believed the evidence was nevertheless compelling enough for the public record, in the form of the Keane Tribunal report, to be amended.

It had passed on the information to the Department of Justice and was awaiting a response, Ms Keegan said.

The 2013 Garda inquiry took statements from families of the deceased and from a fire expert also working with the families.

The Artane nightclub fire killed 48 people on the night of February 13th, 1981. The Fianna Fáil government established a tribunal of inquiry, which was chaired by former chief justice Ronan Keane.

It found that arson was the probable cause of the fire, which started on a seat in the west alcove of the ballroom.

The families have not accepted these findings, which they say are not in keeping with the experience of those were there.