Families of Stardust victims say vital evidence was not made public
On 33rd anniversary of disaster, researcher says cause of fire is ‘absolutely identifiable’
Stardust after the fire that claimed 48 lives in February 1981. Photograph: Tom Lawlor
Families of the 48 young people who died in the 1981 Stardust fire have reiterated their call for a fresh investigation into the tragedy, saying key pieces of evidence suggesting its cause have not been examined in public.
At a press conference in Dublin yesterday, the 33rd anniversary of the disaster, researchers working with the families also alleged that up to 11 of the witnesses at the 1981 tribunal of inquiry into the fire provided deliberately misleading evidence.
A Garda investigation is under way into allegations of perjury at the 1981 tribunal. This investigation is based in Coolock Garda station and is being headed by Det Insp Tony Howard.
Some 48 young people died in the blaze that engulfed the Stardust nightclub in Artane on the night of February 13th/14th, 1981.
A tribunal of investigation was established under the chairmanship of Mr Justice Ronan Keane. It reported in 1982 and found the cause of the fire was “probable arson” and that it almost certainly started on a seat in the west alcove of the ballroom.
The arson finding was overturned in 2009, following an independent examination by Paul Coffey SC, of new evidence submitted by the families. This finding was removed from the public record on February 3rd, 2009. However, Mr Coffey’s published report did not recommend a new inquiry, saying there was probably insufficient evidence to establish the cause of the fire.
An earlier, unpublished draft of his report, however, suggested a fresh inquiry may be necessary.
Geraldine Foy, an independent researcher, said the cause of the fire “absolutely could be identified” and added that the families and their 48 loved ones had a “fundamental human right” to that.
She said witnesses outside the Stardust, on the night of the fire, who saw flames
extending from the roof up to 25 minutes earlier than was first reported inside the club, had not been heard. She said the families now had “irrefutable” evidence that the Garda map of the layout of the Stardust, used at the 1981 tribunal, was flawed, that evidence that there was a basement in the nightclub was false and that evidence about a glass wall inside the building was flawed. Moreover, that a number of 999 calls made on the night were not recorded in the tribunal report.
The families’ solicitor, Paul O’Sullivan, said the evidence they had was “weighty” and “highly significant”.