Plenty of evidence to warrant new public Stardust probe, says solicitor

The Stardust fire claimed the lives of 48 young people and injured more than 200 more on Valentine's night, 1981.

A solicitor for families of the Stardust victims has rejected Government statements that there is no evidence to warrant the opening of a fresh public probe into the cause of the fatal fire.

Paul O’Sullivan said there was both new evidence and overlooked evidence from the original tribunal that made a compelling case for a new commission of investigation.

“There is plenty of evidence and there has been since the tribunal but it disappeared, it got mixed up, it was disregarded,” he said.

Families and survivors gathered yesterday to mark the 33rd anniversary of the nightclub fire which claimed the lives of 48 young people and injured more than 200 more on Valentine’s night, 1981.

The annual candlelight vigil outside the site of the nightclub on Dublin’s northside was abandoned because of storms, but the gathering took place indoors where the names of the dead were read out.

Antoinette Keegan, who survived the fire but lost two of her sisters, Mary and Martina, broke down in tears as she reached her sisters’ names. “It never leaves you,” she said of the grief. “The hurt and the anger never goes.”

That view was echoed by Gertrude Barrett, who lost a son, Michael. “The ripples of that tragedy went far and wide. It shattered homes. It broke up marriages. It ruined people.”

The families fought for 27 years to overturn the original tribunal finding that the fire began in a seat and was probably caused by arson.

A government-commissioned review of that inquiry in 2009 concluded the finding — which pointed the finger of blame at the young revellers — was wrong.

The original version of that review, by senior counsel Paul Coffey, said the families had made “a good case for a further inquiry to establish the cause of the fire” but the version published by the Government carried a much watered- down comment.

Mr O’Sullivan said an investigation was needed to find out who changed Mr Coffey’s report and why, and to examine “overwhelming” evidence that the fire began in the roof space, began earlier than recorded by the tribunal, was accelerated by storage of far greater quantities of combustible materials than the tribunal acknowledged, and was ignited by an electrical fault.

Gardaí have begun an investigation into alleged perjury at the 1981 inquiry.


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