Bereaved families to appear at Stardust independent hearing

THE first round of hearings in the Stardust independent examination will take place next month when bereaved families are called to make representations.

Members of the Stardust Victims’ Committee are to meet with senior counsel John Gallagher, who is overseeing the examination, on January 22 and 23.

Families involved in the committee’s 26-year-long campaign for justice have been allocated two hours each to discuss what they believe happened on February 14, 1981 when 48 young people were killed in the Stardust ballroom in Artane, Co Dublin.

Last night, committee spokeswoman Antoinette Keegan, who lost two sisters in the fire tragedy, said the meetings were highly significant for families who have been waiting almost 27 years to convey “their side of the story and the years of hurt that have followed”.

“We are very happy that Mr Gallagher is pursuing every avenue and ensuring every angle is looked at. For years we have had politicians telling us there is no new evidence. We believe otherwise and want the tribunal’s original verdict examined,” she said.

Ms Keegan, who spent two-and-half-weeks in hospital in 1981 before knowing of her sisters’ deaths, said she would be seeking answers on why the funerals of Mary and Martina had to take place within four days of the fire. “It still hurts me that I wasn’t at their funerals. And also, because the location of my sisters on the tribunal’s map is different to my recollection, I’ll always have this doubt about whether bodies were mixed up on that night and whether Mary and Martina are buried in the grave we’ve been praying at for 26 years.”

The meetings follow the Government’s establishment of an external independent examination into the fire and the appointment of Mr Gallagher to chair the external examination last year. He will be required to report to the government as soon as possible and recommend whether a new inquiry into the 1981 tragedy is required.

While the chairman may consider and examine the issues raised by the Stardust Victims Committee in its lengthy submission ‘Nothing But The Truth’ he shall “not initiate any further investigations into the cause of the fire” according to a recent letter to families from the Government.

Over the last 26 years families have disputed the original tribunal’s conclusion that the fire was a case of “probable arson”.

Following these meetings, it is expected experts such as consultant forensic pathologist Dr Derek Carson and fire expert Robert Knox will be called to discuss their analysis on the causes of the fire.

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