Call for new Stardust fire inquest to be considered ‘afresh’ by AG

Families say they have new evidence about 1981 Artane disaster in which 48 people died

 

The Attorney General will give full consideration to holding a new inquest into the 1981 Stardust fire tragedy, in which 48 young people died, once a formal request is received, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has told the Dáil.

The announcement came as survivors and families of the victims of the fire in Artane, Dublin, 37 years ago held a demonstration and handed postcards signed by 48,000 people supporting their call for a fresh inquest into the Attorney General’s office.

Mr Varadkar said solicitors acting for the Stardust relatives and victims committee wrote to the Attorney General in April notifying the office that they would make a request for a new inquest.

However, he said no formal request to grant the hearing under section 24 of the Coroners’ Act had yet been received.

“However, I spoke to the Attorney General this morning and once the request is made, he will give it full consideration and will look at it afresh with an open mind,” he said, adding that an inquest could only be ordered if there were sufficient grounds for doing so.

Independent TD Tommy Broughan, who raised the issue in the Dáil, said the relatives would be submitting the formal request in the next few weeks. He said that only medical evidence was heard at the original Stardust inquest in 1982 and much more was known about the issue now.

Worst

Families of the victims say they have new evidence including documents and unheard witness testimony about the blaze, which is considered the worst fire disaster in the history of the State.

More than 150 people marched from Westland Row to the Attorney General’s office on Merrion Street on Tuesday to hand in the 48,000 signatures. Musician Christy Moore and a number of public representatives were among those who joined the families and their supporters.

Moore’s song They Never Came Home, written in memory of the victims, was played throughout the march and the names of the 48 deceased were recited on the steps of the Attorney General’s Office.

A 1981 tribunal of inquiry, chaired by Mr Justice Ronan Keane, found “the most probable explanation of the fire” was arson. The finding was formally removed from the public record in February 2009 following a review of evidence by senior counsel Paul Coffey.

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan last year decided against opening another enquiry into the fire after a recommendation from retired judge Mr Justice Patrick McCartan, who reviewed the evidence in the case.

‘Cruel irony’

Selina McDermott, who lost two brothers and a sister in the fire, read out a message from the parents who lost their children.

“We have faced many disappointments along the way but we will never give up hope. We have learned that the Stardust is something we can never get over but rather something that we carry,” she said. “The cruel irony of the name Stardust is both a reminder of the horror we have suffered but also reminded us in the end we are all made of the same stuff.”

Antoinette Keegan, whose sisters Mary (19) and Martina (16) were killed in the fire, claimed the families had been “fobbed off” by the State over the years.

“We are confident now more than ever for the first time in 37 years we are going to get justice,” she said, adding that they would not “give up until we get truth and justice”.