Stardust campaigners present gardaí with ‘new evidence’
Group is hopeful a new inquiry will be initiated
The aftermath of the Stardust fire in February 1981. Photograph: Tom Lawlor.
Representatives of the families of victims of the Stardust disaster yesterday attended a meeting with senior gardaí where they presented what they claim is new information proving evidence given to the two inquiries into the tragedy was unreliable.
Some 48 young people died in the blaze that engulfed the Stardust nightclub in Artane, Dublin, on the night of February 13th-14th, 1981. The cause of the fire was the subject of a tribunal of investigation chaired by Mr Justice Ronan Keane in 1982, as well as an independent examination by Paul Coffey SC in 2008 after new evidence was submitted by the families.
The Irish Times has learned that yesterday’s meeting, which took place at Garda Headquarters, lasted more than three-and-a-half hours and was attended by – among others – Chief Supt Fergus Healy, Geraldine Foy, an independent researcher who has worked with the Stardust Victims Committee for the past 12 years, and Paul O’Sullivan, the solicitor representing the families.
The meeting was set up to address concerns raised by Ms Foy and the families that evidence provided to the Keane tribunal and the Coffey inquiry was unreliable.
The issue centres on whether the fire started in the roof space of a store room on an upper floor of the ballroom, as the families claim, or on a seat on the ground floor, as was concluded by Mr Justice Keane. The Coffey report could not ascertain a conclusive answer as to the cause of the fire.
Ms Foy claims the new information presented at yesterday’s meeting disproves evidence that was given to the inquiries in relation to the existence of a glass wall to the store room. It was said during the inquiries that had the fire been in that room, it would have been evident to the people inside the building due to the glass.
The building contractor who carried out the work on this wall, as well as Antoinette Keegan, who was in the club at the time of the disaster, attended yesterday’s meeting and gave statements that the wall was not made of glass but had just a small window large enough for a spotlight to be shined through. There is also a transcript of a 999 call reporting a roof fire in the Stardust at the same time as a 999 call reporting the seat fire, which they claim shows the fire must have started in the roof space.
According to Ms Foy, the concerns presented were taken seriously by Chief Supt Healy who instructed Mr O’Sullivan, the solicitor, to write to him officially outlining the case that evidence presented to past inquiries was unreliable. She said Chief Supt Healy gave a commitment to pass on the information to gardaí at Coolock where officers are examining materials in relation to allegations of perjury at the Keane tribunal.
She also claimed that Chief Supt Healy gave her assurances that should the new information be verified, he would write to Minister for Justice Alan Shatter advising that a new inquiry into the disaster be set up.
A Garda spokesman last night said the force was waiting to be furnished with the information before deciding how to proceed.