Stardust tragedy: Cabinet appoints judge to review evidence

Devastating 1981 blaze at Artane nightclub in Dublin left 48 people dead and 214 injured

 

The Cabinet has agreed to the appointment of retired judge Mr Justice Patrick McCartan to conduct an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the Stardust tragedy.

Mr Justice McCartan will have nine months to examine any new evidence in relation to the 1981 fire at the nightclub in Artane, Dublin, in which 48 people died and 214 were injured.

He will be asked to make a recommendation on whether a commission of investigation into the fire is warranted.

Mr Justice McCartan was appointed with the co-operation of the families affected by the tragedy and with the approval of the Department of Justice.

Families have been campaigning for a new inquiry, insisting they have unearthed “significant new evidence” which “cannot be ignored”.

1981 inquiry

A tribunal of inquiry established in the aftermath of the tragedy, chaired by Mr Justice Ronan Keane, reported in November 1981 that the “more probable explanation of the fire is that it was caused deliberately” and “probably started (on a seat) in the west alcove”. The families have always rejected this and campaigned for a new inquiry.

In 2008, Paul Coffey SC (now Mr Justice Coffey), was appointed to conduct a review and in 2009 reported that the cause of the fire could not be identified, absolving any of the Stardust patrons of arson.

On February 3rd, 2009, the families welcomed a formal government statement that there was no evidence the fire had been started deliberately. They subsequently found, however, there had been more than 70 alterations to the initial report submitted by Mr Coffey on December 10th, 2008.

They say these watered down Mr Coffey’s original finding that a “new inquiry is necessary if it is the only way of placing on the public record a finding that is based on evidence”.

Solicitor for the families Paul O’Sullivan said the new evidence was “utterly compelling” and must be investigated.