Bid to open pub on Stardust site delayed after relatives’ legal move

RELATIVES of people who died in the Stardust inferno have stalled an attempt to open a pub on the site of the doomed nightclub.

Members of the Stardust Victims Committee presented Dublin District Court with a petition of more than 2,000 signatures opposing plans to transfer ownership of the Silver Swan pub from the Butterly family to new applicant Jason Gamble.

They claimed the move was intended to dupe local people about who really owned the pub because of nightly protests that have been held outside the premises since February 14 this year, the 25th anniversary of the tragedy.

Victims Committee spokeswoman Linda Hosey told Judge Mary Collins the relatives did not believe Mr Gamble had actually bought the premises.

Ms Hosey said Eamon Butterly had tried to reopen the pub on February 14 - the 25th anniversary of the Valentine’s Day disco fire which claimed the lives of 48 young people and injured more than 200 others - but the protests had prevented him.

“It’s to pull the wool over our eyes so that Mr Butterly can stand back and say it’s nothing to do with me anymore but I am here to tell both of them that we are not fooled,” she said.

“All he has succeeded in reopening is very deep and very raw wounds in the community. The community is appalled, the whole of Dublin is appalled at the audacity of the man.

Ms Hosey added: “I have over 2,000 signatures - that’s just since Monday. If we had more time, I would have 22,000.”

Objections were also independently voiced by Malachy Steenson, whose in-laws Francis and Maureen Lawlor died in the fire leaving an infant daughter.

Mr Steenson said the court needed to consider the suitability of Mr Gamble to own a pub, saying: “We think that the character of this individual would have to be looked at. He may not be a person who would qualify within the meaning of the law.”

Counsel for Mr Gamble said that his client was willing to sit down with the relatives and try to work through any objections they might have but he urged that any adjournment of the case be short.

Gardaí told the court they had no objection to Mr Gamble’s application.

Judge Collins warned the objectors that there were very limited grounds on which they could legally oppose a transfer application, but she said she did not think it would be appropriate to proceed with a hearing without an adjournment.

“I think it’s a particularly sensitive issue,” she said. She put the case back three weeks to March 29 but said it may still not be possible to hear the application in full then if there were still unresolved issues.

Relatives staged a protest outside the court house for a time after yesterday’s proceedings.

Jimmy Quinn, who lost his son Liam in the tragedy, said no public house should ever be allowed to open on the site.

“It’s a graveyard. It’s a crematorium where 48 young people perished and it should never have been built on,” he said.

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