Fine Gael offers compromise on Stardust investigation

Party will set up a commission of inquiry if an independent person finds new evidence

Antoinette Keegan survived the Stardust nightclub fire in February 1981 but lost her sisters Mary and Martina to the blaze in which 48 people died and 214 were injured. Video: Bryan O’Brien

 

Fine Gael has committed to establishing a commission of investigation into the Stardust tragedy if an independent person finds any new evidence in the case.

The Cabinet is split on whether to establish a statutory inquiry into the 1981 nightclub blaze which killed 48 people.

In a proposed compromise to the Independent Alliance, Fine Gael has said it will appoint someone to examine any new information.

If there is anything discovered that may assist, it has committed to a statutory inquiry.

The Independent Alliance is seeking a free vote on a motion being introduced in the Dáil by Independent TD Tommy Broughan, calling for a new inquiry.

Minister of State at the Department of Health Finian McGrath met the families of those killed in the fire last night.

They say they have “significant new evidence” and want a new inquiry.

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They have always rejected the finding by a tribunal of inquiry after the blaze that the “more probable explanation of the fire is that it was caused deliberately”.

It is understood Mr McGrath, who is supported by his colleague Minister for Transport Shane Ross, has not yet agreed to the proposed counter motion by Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald.

The Dublin Bay North TD said he cannot vote against a commission of investigation being established.

Senior counsel

It said it will commit to act on the recommendations of this person, who is likely to be a senior counsel.

Government sources said they were hopeful an agreement could be reached. Talks were ongoing last night between the two sides.

Fianna Fáil has yet to agree its position on the Stardust motion, but it has stressed it will not be voting against it, signalling it may abstain.

The Cabinet met yesterday for its weekly meeting, and discussed three proposals to be voted on in the House this week.

Despite a two-hour meeting, Ministers could not agree a stance on whether a commission of investigation should be established into the Stardust inquiry, if householders wrongly denied tracker mortgages should be compensated or whether legislation to make homecare packages a statutory right should be passed.

Meanwhile, the Government has failed to agree a counter-argument to a Sinn Féin motion calling for compensation to be given to up to 15,000 people wrongly denied tracker mortgages.

Senior sources said the Government could not vote in favour of the motion because it contained strong criticism of the Central Bank.

However, they said the Government was eager to “right the wrong” that had been done to the homeowners.

Separately, Fianna Fáil has tabled legislation offering people homecare services before long-term residential care.

Government sources said it had moved towards a similar position but could not commit without the appropriate resources.