Stardust relatives call for State apology and inquiry

RELATIVES of the Stardust victims last night called for a State apology and new inquiry after a Prime Time investigation claimed the original tribunal into the tragedy “misdirected itself”.

Speaking in the Dáil before the programme was aired, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said the Government would consider how to formalise a new inquiry if new information emerged.

Mr Ahern said he was available to meet relatives, but stopped short of committing to a Commission of Inquiry.

"If there is new information, then the Government will look at it," he said.

However, in last night's RTÉ programme, international fire expert Professor Michael Delichatsios disputed the findings of the Stardust Tribunal, which reported the fire was probably arson and started in an alcove.

Prof Delichatsios suggested the tribunal had mistaken the location of a crucial storeroom which could provide the answer to how and where the fire started.

"Based on the new evidence about the storeroom, the fire could not have started in the alcove, accidentally or deliberately," he said.

As they remembered their loved ones yesterday, relatives said the Government should issue an apology and launch a Commission of Inquiry into the tragedy.

"I want an apology," said Gertrude Barrett, who lost her 17-year-old son Michael.

"None of us were allowed to celebrate the lives of our children. There was just anger after anger and angst directed at us by Government after Government.

"It's only now, after 25 years, that we are being listened to," she said.

Relatives also gathered outside the location of the Stardust yesterday in protest at the owner's plans to open a new bar on the same spot.

Antoinette Keegan, of the Stardust Victims' Committee, said the premises should not open again.

"I would prefer if that place never opened again," Ms Keegan said.

"I would prefer if the whole building was demolished, that there's no more memories there with customers there drinking on a graveyard, drinking and celebrating."

She welcomed the chance of meeting Mr Ahern.

"We have met with representatives of the Taoiseach's Department. We have never met the Taoiseach. We have been requesting since 2002 to sit down and talk to him and explain our fight for justice," she said.

The new information from last night's programme is to form part of a report being compiled for the Stardust Committee, which will be sent to Justice Minister Michael McDowell.

In a statement last night, the Department of Justice said any further submissions would be examined.

"In the event there is some new information or advice the minister can provide to the Stardust Committee, he will of course meet with representatives of the families," it stated.

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