Stardust families launch fresh bid for a new inquest into 1981 fire

Lawyers for relatives of 48 people who died say there is evidence to warrant new inquiry

Stardust families Antoinette Keegan, Eugene Kelly, Christine Keegan and Bridget McDermott hand out postcards outside the GPO Dublin, as part of the Stardust Postcard Campaign seeking a new inquests into the Stardust fire tragedy of 14th February 1981. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Stardust families Antoinette Keegan, Eugene Kelly, Christine Keegan and Bridget McDermott hand out postcards outside the GPO Dublin, as part of the Stardust Postcard Campaign seeking a new inquests into the Stardust fire tragedy of 14th February 1981. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

 

Relatives of 48 young people who died in the 1981 Stardust disaster are calling for a new inquest into their deaths.

Relatives held a stall outside the GPO on Saturday asking people to sign a postcard calling on the Attorney General to grant a fresh inquest into the tragedy.

The fire at the Stardust nightclub in Artane, Dublin, on the night of the February 13th/14th, 1981, remains the worst fire disaster in the history of the State.

Inquests were held into the deaths in 1982, returning explanations as to the causes of death but no verdicts.

A 1981 tribunal of inquiry, chaired by Mr Justice Ronan Keane, had found “the most probable explanation of the fire” was arson.

That finding was formally removed from the public record in February 2009 following a review of evidence by Paul Coffey SC.

Last year, the Government asked retired judge Pat McCartan to look at the evidence provided by the families but his assessment found there was no new evidence and no new inquiry was warranted.

The families, who rejected Mr McCartan’s findings, hope a new inquest will offer an opportunity to legally examine this and other evidence not considered at the original inquest. They also want verdicts on their loved ones’ deaths.

Sinn Féin MEP Lynn Boylan said there is a huge amount of public and political support for the campaign.

“The new lawyer Darragh Mackin who is working on the case believes there is enough evidence there to warrant a new inquest and that the Attorney General has the discretion to do that so we are collecting the postcards over the summer and we will deliver them to the AG when the Dáil reconvenes after the summer,” she said.

Ms Boylan said they had formally notified the Attorney General, Séamus Woulfe, of their intention to apply for a fresh inquest under section 24 of the Coroners Act, 1962.

Antoinette Keegan, who lost two sisters in the tragedy said the families will continue to campaign until they get a fresh inquest and accountability.

“The coroner has an obligation to full investigate any death that occurs in unusual circumstances. Our loved one were killed in the stardust and arson was given as the reason but that has been removed from the public record.

We want the inquest reopened because the fire wasn’t cause by arson and we are entitled to an explanation,” she said.

“The owner of the Stardust had a duty of care to the patrons to make sure everyone was safe but their doors were locked and blocked and it caused 48 deaths and 215 people to be injured. The horrors and nightmares from that night still haunts people to this day,” she said.

“We have never got anything from the State as a result of this tragedy. We have had 38 year of systematic abuse by the Irish State and we’re not sitting back anymore to wait for justice to be served. It is not over and we will not rest until we find out what happened too our loved ones. We want to know why no one was held responsible,” she said.

Ms Keegan called for fans attending the GAA Leinster final between Dublin and Laois to clap at the 48th minute in memory of the 48 people who were killed.