Families of victims of the Stardust nightclub fire are hoping they will at last see a criminal prosecution after gardaí completed a fresh investigation into aspects of the disaster 35 years ago
Detectives at Coolock in Dublin last week sent a file to the Director of Public Prosecutions following a review of evidence from the Valentine’s Night fire that killed 48 young people and injured more than 200 others in 1981.
Gardaí would not comment on the file except to confirm its completion. In a statement they said: “Gardaí at Coolock have recently forwarded a file to the Office of DPP in relation to this ongoing investigation. It would be inappropriate to discuss correspondence from An Garda Síochána and the office of the DPP.”
Antoinette Keegan, who survived the fire that claimed the lives of her two sisters, welcomed the development. “We’ve been grieving for 35 years and we’ve fought government after government to get justice for our loved ones. We’re just grateful the gardaí have taken us seriously and we hope the DPP will act now.”
The families were disappointed earlier this year when the DPP directed nobody should be charged on foot of another file prepared by gardaí into allegations of perjury by witnesses at the 1981 tribunal of inquiry.
The latest investigation centres on evidence that at least five young men were already dead, or at least overcome by fumes, in a part of the nightclub some distance from the area where it was officially decided the fire had broken out, at a time earlier than it was officially declared the fire had started.
Researcher Geraldine Foy, who has worked with the families for the past 10 years, revealed through the Irish Examiner in January last year that this evidence was available to the tribunal but its significance was dismissed because the inquiry was solely focused on the fire being deliberately started in a seating area.
That official finding of “probable arson”, which enabled the nightclub owners to claim massive compensation, devastated the families and they fought for 27 years to overturn it.
They eventually got the Dáil record changed in 2009 following a government review and the arson verdict was declared incorrect but the review did not allow for an examination into the actual cause of the fire. The families say the evidence relating to the five young men backs their belief that criminal negligence was behind the tragedy.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved