Retired judge will probe new Stardust evidence

The Government is to appoint a retired judge to investigate claims of new evidence into the 1981 Stardust fire which claimed 48 lives.

Retired judge will probe new Stardust evidence

Following rows between the Independent Alliance and Fine Gael, the Coalition agreed it will establish a Commission of Inquiry, should the judge recommend it.

Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald and Minister of State Finian McGrath have agreed a Dáil countermotion on the matter following discussions.

The debate commenced in the Dáil last night.

The countermotion agrees the independent figure must have the trust of the families of the victims of the tragedy.

Mr McGrath said he hoped the judge could be in place for the 36th anniversary on February 14.

This means the families will have an effective veto on which former judge will be engaged to carry out the scoping exercise.

“We are looking for an independent judge, someone with a criminal background and that person must have the trust of the families. We have guaranteed them a say in the process,” he said.

“Veto is a very strong word, but trust is key and we can’t move without the trust and confidence of the families. So some may see it like that, we have to guarantee the trust of the families.”

The countermotion also commits the Government to meeting with the families.

Mr McGrath, who threatened to resign if he did not get satisfaction on this issue, said he felt it was better to “stay in and fight like hell” in order to deliver justice to the families.

Having said for several days that only an inquiry would suffice, Mr McGrath rejected suggestions that he caved, calling the deal a sensible solution which moves the victims’ campaign on.

Addressing the media, Mr McGrath said at long last the families are on the road to getting justice.

“Families deserve nothing less than answers as to how their loved ones died.”

Mr McGrath denied he had caved into Fine Gael who had steadfastly refused to accept a full inquiry now because of doubts over whether new evidence exists.

“Absolutely no. The position is very simple. The Independent Alliance made a collective decision that the only way to progress this was to support the Programme for Government amendment and if we had left the pitch, nothing would have happened,” he said.

“We have stood with the families and we are fighting for a commission of inquiry,” he said.

Speaking about his own position, Mr McGrath said it was a very delicate and difficult situation during the week as the talks continued.

“I felt it was better to stay in and fight like hell, I am comfortable with the decision taken,” he said,

Reacting to the news, Fianna Fáil TD Sean Haughey said any new evidence must be examined quickly.

“The victims’ committee are saying new evidence exists and if that is the case, then it should be examined,” Mr Haughey told the Irish Examiner.

“The amendment brought forward by the Government caters for that, so we can only hope that this process can be speedy.”

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