Stardust probe ‘unlikely to find new evidence’

FAMILIES of Stardust victims face an uphill battle to unearth fresh evidence that would throw new light on the tragedy, gardaí who were part of the original investigation have warned.

A retired forensics expert said the damage to some bodies not shown to relatives was so severe that even modern techniques would struggle to extract information from the remains.

Retired detective inspector Brendan McArdle, formerly of the Garda Technical Bureau, said: “You could not print what we saw and dealt with. There were horrific injuries to those who were really engulfed in the fire.”

Families behind the Stardust Legal Challenge Committee are seeking the re-opening of the inquests into the 48 young people who died in the fire at the Stardust nightclub in Dublin 25 years ago, plus a fresh inquiry into the causes of the tragedy.

They question the 1981 tribunal of inquiry’s finding that the cause of the blaze was arson. They also want a definitive cause of death, after receiving apparently contradictory details of how their loved ones died.

And several families hope a number of unidentified remains can finally be named.

Brendan McArdle, however, said the families could be disappointed. He warned some bodies had effectively exploded in the intense heat, rendering even dental records useless, while bone marrow normally used for DNA testing was either destroyed or of too poor a quality as to provide indisputable data.

“The inquiry that was there was as comprehensive as it gets. The families have my deepest sympathy but I fail to see what an additional inquiry would reveal,” he said.

That view was echoed by retired sergeant Tom Carty, one of the first gardaí on the scene moments after the fire broke out.

“I spent a lot of time in that building for days afterwards. I know people have said they believed an electrical fault was to blame but in the burnt out state that building was in, there was nothing left of the electrics to examine.

“I can imagine the grief the families must have suffered and still suffer but I don’t know if there is anything more that can be done. Somebody gave me portions of bodies to take down to the morgue. This was a day or two after the fire and we were still finding pieces.”

Justice Minister Michael McDowell yesterday repeated his view that, despite fresh submissions from the Stardust Committee, he had yet to be convinced of the need for a fresh inquiry.

“As of yet I have seen nothing new that would justify the reopening of the inquiry or the establishment of another tribunal,” he said.

One garda, however, said questions remained about the conclusions of the original tribunal and the failure to prosecute anyone in relation to the fire.

The garda, who requested anonymity, said: “I don’t believe it was arson. I never believed that. That was a rumour that started and it wouldn’t go away.”

Stardust Committee member Mick Ffrench, whose 18-year-old son, Michael, died in the fire but was never identified, said the families were hopeful of uncovering new information.

He welcomed the RTÉ drama on the subject, due for broadcast on Sunday night.

“Maybe this will bring it back to mind and at least give us a chance to try again and find the truth. Hopefully along the line it might get Michael identified,” said Mr Ffrench.

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