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  • Northside East

Shock turns to anger as new Stardust inquiry ruled out

Tuesday, 7th November, 2017 2:10pm

Story by Tony McCullagh
Shock turns to anger as new Stardust inquiry ruled out

The aftermath of the Stardust fire

Shock turns to anger as new Stardust inquiry ruled out

The aftermath of the Stardust fire

THE decision not to proceed with a Commission of Investigation into the 1981 Stardust fire has been met with shock and anger.

Yesterday, the Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan, briefed the Cabinet on Judge Pat McCartan’s independent assessment of the evidence presented to him by the Stardust Victims’ Committee. He concluded there was no evidence to warrant a new inquiry.

The report has been accepted by the Government and furnished to the Stardust relatives. The minister has now made arrangements for the publication of the report and for it to be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas as the process was initiated on foot of a Dáil Motion in January.  

In a statement, Minister Flanagan said: “I would like to express my appreciation to Judge McCartan for his work on this report. The judge was nominated by the relatives as a person they trusted and I am grateful to him for his willingness to undertake this important public service.

“The Stardust fire was undoubtedly one of the greatest tragedies in the history of this country and the Government considered it important to assess all available evidence, including any new material that may have come to light.

“Having carefully considered the two previous independent reports on the tragedy and considered all material made available to him, Judge McCartan concluded that no further new inquiry is warranted.”

Minister Flanagan added: “I want to acknowledge the terrible pain and loss of the relatives of the victims and the fact that the report does not come to the conclusion that they would have wished for. This report by Judge McCartan is the third independent assessment of the available evidence and, while I understand that the pain of the relatives is compounded by the failure to discover the cause of the fire, this report concludes that no new inquiry is warranted.” 

Disability Minister Finian McGrath, who had supported the Stardust families in their campaign for a new inquiry, said his only thoughts were with the families of the victims of the tragedy.

"This news will come as a major disappointment to the Stardust Relatives and Victims' Committee, which has been working tirelessly for years to determine the cause of the fire," Minister McGrath said.

He added: "I feel for all the families today as I know that they will be disappointed with the outcome of this assessment. They have suffered a huge loss and their efforts over 36 years are a testament to their loved ones."

Independent TD for Dublin Bay North, Tommy Broughan, who had tabled a motion in January calling for a Commission of Investigation into the Stardust fire, expressed his disappointment with Judge Pat McCartan’s decision and launched a scathing attack on Finian McGrath.

He said his motion had been supported by Independents4Change, People Before Profit, Solidarity TDs, Sinn Féin, the Labour Party, the Social Democrats and other left Independents.

“Minister of State Finian McGrath, despite supporting the Stardust Relatives and Victims’ Committee during his political career, turned his back on the families who lost loved ones and instead supported the Government’s amendment to the motion which led to Judge McCartan reviewing evidence and making his recent recommendation that no new commission is needed,” Deputy Broughan stated.

“I am very disappointed to see that Judge McCartan has not recommended a new Commission of Investigation into the tragedy that has changed the history of our constituency since that fateful night in 1981. Had Finian McGrath supported my motion in January, the Stardust Relatives and Victims’ Committee would have had the opportunity for closure but instead they were subjected to a Coffey Part 2 type examination.”

He added: “I feel very sad for Antoinette Keegan and those other families who have fought so hard for justice for their loved ones. I have always hoped that we would have justice similar to what recently happened with the Hillsborough disaster in Liverpool.

“Seeking justice for the relatives and victims of the Stardust disaster still remains unfinished business. It is a sad day for the constituency.”

A spokesperson for Finian McGrath accused Deputy Broughan of trying to score political points from the Stardust families and said the minister would be responding to the comments in due course.

Antoinette Keegan, a member of the Stardust Relatives and Victims’ Committee, said they were bitterly disappointed with the outcome and would seek legal advice on the next stage of their campaign for a new inquiry. She added that the families had been taken aback by Judge McCartan's "personalised" criticism of their submission.

Read the digital editions of the Dublin People Northside East, Northside West & Southside here