Work under way to secure venue for Stardust fire inquest, Tánaiste says

Minister for Justice considering request to pay jurors serving on inquest

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said work is being done to secure a venue for the Stardust inquest and that he hopes the situation "will be resolved as soon as possible".

Mr Varadkar also said Minister for Justice Helen McEntee is considering a request to pay jurors serving on the inquest and will make a response on the matter “when she has a chance to”.

The Stardust fire broke at the nightclub in Artane in north Dublin on February 14th, 1981, and claimed the lives of 48 people. It was considered the worst fire disaster in the history of the State.

Mr Varadkar was responding to Independent TD Peter Fitzpatrick, during Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil on Thursday, who said it was “incredible” that 41 years after the fire had occurred families and survivors were “still waiting for justice”.

The contract for a bespoke courtroom in the RDS to facilitate inquests will expire next month, Mr Varadkar explained.

He said the Office of Public Works (OPW) was working with the coroner to find a suitable location. “We will work hard on that and I’m sure it can be achieved,” he said.

Mr Varadkar added that the Government intends “that the situation will be resolved as soon as possible” and that families could be assured a suitable venue would be found.

The Fine Gael leader said he was aware of a request from Phoenix Law solicitors to pay jurors serving on the inquest. He said this would be unusual, but added that "this is an unusual situation given that it would go on for so long".

“The Minister for Justice is currently considering that and will make a response when she has a chance to do so,” he said.

Mr Varadkar also said the conduct of the inquest is independent from the Government while the Department of Justice had assigned additional staff to the office of the Dublin coroner.

‘Legacy of pain’

He said the Stardust fire was a national tragedy that “has left a particular legacy of pain for people in north Dublin”.

Mr Fitzpatrick said the Stardust fire was embedded in the memories "not only of the people of Dublin but the collective memory of the nation".

The Louth TD said it was accepted that previous inquests and inquiries were flawed and "left pertinent questions unanswered".

He also spoke of John and Christine Keegan, "no longer with us and will never see justice for their two daughters''. The couple lost their daughters Mary (19) and Martina (16) in the fire while their other daughter, Antoinette, survived the blaze and continues to campaign for an inquest.

Mr Fitzpatrick said “justice delayed is justice denied” and added that “justice continues to be denied to families and survivors”.

He also called on Mr Varadkar to “work with the relevant departments and identify funds to pay an inquest jury for a few months”.

“It is the least the State can do considering the unnecessary trauma we have put the survivors and families of victims through,” he said.