Families to reveal cause of Stardust disaster

Families who lost loved ones in the Stardust nightclub fire are to reveal what they believe caused the blaze when they mark the 33rd anniversary of the disaster next week.

They have also repeated their demand for a fresh public inquiry and yesterday published extracts from a draft government report they say backed their call for an inquiry, before a watered-down version of the report was published weeks later.

Antoinette Keegan, whose sisters Mary and Martina were among the 48 people who died in the Valentine’s night disco in 1981, said the bereaved families and hundreds of injured survivors had waited and suffered long enough.

“We had to fight for years to get the acknowledgement that the original tribunal report was wrong in what it said about the cause of the fire, but we want them to go a step further and acknowledge what did cause the fire.”

In 2009, the Stardust Victims Committee won a 27-year battle to overturn the official tribunal finding from 1982 that the fire probably started in the seating.

A 2009 report, by barrister Paul Coffey, said public records should be changed to remove the original conclusion as, he said, it “may well give the mistaken impression… that the fire was started deliberately”.

But he said a fresh inquiry would only be justified if the Government could not find a way of amending the public records. The Dáil subsequently passed motions accepting the Coffey Report and by implication, overturning the original tribunal report finding.

An earlier draft, however, stated: “It seems to me that the committee has made out a good case for a further inquiry to establish the cause of the fire.”

That line, and several others, was omitted from the final report published a few weeks later.

Ms Keegan said: “We want to know why the report was changed. We were so close to the end of our fight for justice and then with the stroke of a pen everything changed.”

The original conclusion enabled the owners to claim over £500,000 in criminal injuries compensation, and prevented the families suing anyone over the padlocked doors and barred windows that blocked escape routes.

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